Saturday, December 29, 2012

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

It must have been some party!  I love the look on the man of the house's face as he contemplates doing the dishes at a quarter to three....

The good people at Whole Foods invited me to sample their new Whole Foods Market™ line  of appetizers, entrees and desserts.   So my family sat down the other night for a pre NYE taste off of some of their new products.     Compared to similar offerings at Whole Foods, their house brand was well priced.  Also, they have no artificial flavors, bleached flours, hydrogenated fats or high-fructose corn syrup in these new products.   Our favorites were their "6 Ingredient" Ice Cream - which is a lot like the Haagen Dazs but cheaper and their Wood Fired Stracchino Cheese with Arugula pizza.    They'd like readers of my blog to try them out, too, so drop a comment below letting me know what your food plans are for New Year's Eve, and a winner of a $25 Whole Foods Gift Card will be selected at random.   All comments must be received by midnight, December 31, 2012 for the drawing.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lubiyeh - Green Beans and Tomatoes with Garlic

Yesterday, we celebrated Christmas No. 3 at my brother's house in Warren.   My sister in law Becky assigned me the vegetable for the dinner, in addition to the kapusta I was already planning on bringing.   We are already out of the kraut I fermented myself earlier in the season, so I picked up a gallon of kraut at Copernicus Deli in Ann Arbor, our very own Polish food emporium.  I also got some beet horseradish to go along with the kielbasa.   But I was stumped about what to make for my much as I love the Campbell's Soup green bean casserole, I had just had it the other day at my sister in law's house and I didn't have a can of the Durkee Fried Onions laying about in the pantry, which are critical.   I looked in my veggie drawer and all I had languishing in there was carrots, celery and some mixes salad greens.  I didn't want to go to the store....what to make?

Looking again at the pantry, I saw tons of canned green beans and canned tomatoes.   True confession time:  I love the taste of canned green beans....frozen green beans are like cardboard, and I like to buy my produce seasonally, if possible.  So unless it is summertime, we eat canned green beans.  There.  I said it.   Hopefully no one takes away my food snob credentials.   There's something homey about canned green beans, plus I think the canning process concentrates the beans flavor.   It's what I grew up with.     I also had lots of cans of diced tomatoes....confession #2: I don't can my own tomatoes.   It's a hassle, and I can't preserve them as cheaply as I can buy my favorite local brand Red Gold.  When I can tomatoes, it's always in condiment form: salsa, ketchup, barbecue sauce.   But I leave plain canned tomatoes to the Red Gold people.    So then I decided to make a dish my fellow Michigan Lady Food Blogger Joan made a few years ago at one of our get togethers.   She called it Maan's Beans.  The recipe originally came from her Lebanese neighbor Maan who lived by her back when she lived next to Frog Holler Farm.   Evidently Maan's beans are famous there, too, because a recipe shows up for them on their website as well. That's how I found the Arabic name for them - Lubiyeh.  They are so delicious! 

The trick to making these beans is to not skimp on the garlic.  My version calls for 2 heads (not cloves) of garlic.   Also, they take a long time to cook - the long, slow cooking mellows the garlic and will make your house smell wonderful.   They can be made on the stove top, but I found that it works best to make them in a lidded pot in a slow oven - no stirring required.  The best part about this recipe is that it's essentially zero Weight Watchers points, if you are counting them. 


olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 15 oz.  cans French cut green beans, drained
4 15 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 small cans tomato paste
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a dutch oven or other lidded heavy pan, sauté onion in olive oil until soft.  Add all ingredients (except salt and pepper) and cook in a 250 F oven for 5 hours or until the garlic is soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.    This can be served on pita bread as a dip, or over rice for a meal.

There were no leftovers to bring home - everyone kept eating helping after helping with our holiday ham.   Sure, it wasn't traditional, but it was great to have a vegetable to eat that wasn't laden with cream sauce but still tasted rich and flavorful.   I need to make this more often....thanks to Joan for the inspiration!  I don't get to see her anymore now that she has moved to Japan, but we still consider her a Michigan Lady Food Blogger

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I am thoroughly enjoying my holiday break from work - everyone at my work gets from December 22 until January 2 off, but I decided to take some vacation days early in 2013 so I can be off the first week of January, too.  My goal is to take a nap every day that I am off, and so far, that has been working out great!  Sure, I've got some other things planned - I need to sew 3 costumes for the Dexter High School musical, and     I really need to get our family room cleaned up, but I am not going to let those things get in the way of my naps.   A girl needs to have priorities...

Yesterday, after my nap, we were supposed to bowling as a family, but my son was feeling a little under the weather, so my hubby and I decided to treat ourselves to happy hour instead.   One of our favorite holiday traditions is to sneak out for a holiday cocktail together.    I can remember when we first moved to Ann Arbor, we sat together in the famous hippy bar Del Rio (long closed) and enjoyed our Christmas cocktail while the snow fell in the twilight.   We had to run into Dexter to pick up a last minute gift, and the town was pretty much empty, so we stopped at the pub for our cocktail this year.   It should be my New Year's Resolution to take advantage of my programmable oven often - it has a feature where you can set the start time, the cooking time and the temperature, and the food will cook later on, as directed.  It's a great way to cook frozen dishes like casseroles on a work day - just pop it frozen in the oven, program it, and it will be ready when you arrive home.  

I used the feature yesterday to try out this recipe I saw on the Barefoot Contessa.   A couple weekends ago, I was on a ladies weekend with my friend Ann, and she doesn't have a TV in her house.  So whenever we are at a hotel together, we watch the Food Network.  During the day, they actually show cooking shows instead of the stupid faux reality cooking competitions they have at night.    I've always liked Ina Garten's recipes - in fact, her original cookbook...

is one of my favorites - every recipe I have ever made from that book is stellar.   So we watched Ina whip up a meal for her husband Jeffery - it seems that Ina leads a charmed life, where all she does is cook up a fabulous meal for her husband that she only sees on weekends, when he pops in for a visit.   Otherwise, her days are spent shopping and cooking for any guests from the Hamptons that might drop in.  Ina said that she used to make these potatoes by the truckload to sell in her food shop....


I love the idea of mustard mixed with potatoes - I had just bought a big jar of Polish style mustard for Christmas.   The bonus of this potato recipe is that the mustard coats the raw potatoes and prevents them from discoloring.   So, they can sit in the oven for a while, waiting to be cooked.   I decided to try it out and it worked great - while we ran our errands and enjoyed our cocktails, the potatoes waited in the oven until it was time for them to cook.   Delicious!

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds small potatoes
2 yellow onions
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (or, set your oven for 425 to cook later)

Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters, depending on their size, and place them on a sheet pan. Remove the ends of the onions, peel them, and cut them in half. Slice them crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices to make half-rounds. Toss the onions and potatoes together on the sheet pan. Add the olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper and toss them together. Bake for  1 hour, until the potatoes are lightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes from time to time with a metal spatula so they brown evenly, if there's someone home to do it.

Serve hot sprinkled with chopped parsley and a little extra salt.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

It's already been a long December for me.   Work gets frenetic as people are trying to get everything done they said they would in 2012, way back last January.  Then, others are trying to get their last vacation days in before they lose them at the end of the year, so it's difficult to make things happen.  Of course, there is holiday lunches and potlucks to attend, too.   On Thursday, it took all my resolve to go into the office instead of staying home and baking cookies.   Specifically, gingerbread cookies.....

Michigan, my Michigan

Gingerbread Cookies
3 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 T ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup robust  molasses
2 tablespoons milk

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined. Add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened.   Scrape dough onto work surface and divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 20-25 minutes. (You could also refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.)
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into desired shapes and transfer the shapes to your parchment-lined cookie sheets. Space them at least an inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. For crispier cookies, let them bake for a little longer and roll them thinner.  Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.   Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.

These can be decorated with fancy royal friend Olivia makes the most beautiful Christmas cookies...

Olivia's cookies

and every year, I try to make ones as nice as she does, but I rarely succeed.  Maybe this year will be the year!  To make cookies like this, it requires a lot of stuff....

sprinkles and sugars

...and it also requires cake decorating tools and really good food coloring.   The best way to learn how to do it is this website, which I found, thanks to Olivia.   Over the years, I've also used squeeze bottles instead of icing bags and tips.    I use this Royal Icing recipe - there are tons out there, but I've had good luck with this one.   The key is to make sure that the icing is the right consistency.  

Royal Icing Recipe


3/4 cup warm water
5 T meringue powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2.25 lbs powdered sugar


In mixer bowl, pour in the warm water and the meringue powder. Mix it with a whisk by hand until it is frothy and thickened…about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and mix for 30 seconds more. Pour in all the icing sugar at once and place the bowl on the mixer.  Using the paddle attachment on the LOWEST speed, mix slowly for a full 10 minutes. Icing will get thick and creamy. Add just drops of water at a time to make the icing runnier.  If you add too much water at a time it’s more difficult to thicken it with icing sugar than it is to add water to it.  To make sure the icing is the right consistency for flooding, try the “10 second rule”.  Drag a butter knife through the surface of the icing and count to 10.  If the icing surface becomes smooth in anywhere between 5-10 seconds, then the icing is ready to use.  If it takes longer than approximately 10 seconds, the icing is too thick.  Slowly add more water.  If the icing surface smooths over in less than 5-10 seconds, it is too runny.  Mix the icing longer or slowly add more sifted icing sugar to thicken it.

Cover the bowl with a dampened tea-towel to prevent crusting and drying.

Tint with food coloring of your choice.   This is always hard for me to figure out, because I really don't have a good eye for color.   I need a theme this year, too.   Maybe I will make all snowflakes, or Christmas trees, or mittens.   I have a million cookie cutters....more than any one person should have.   I'm not sure when I am going to bake some cookies this season.  Maybe today will be the day!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

Pinterest has been such a blessing to me - I can pin recipes I think I want to try....and yesterday, I saw this one that my friend Kate had posted.   I already had prepared a turkey stock - the last thing I do each Thanksgiving is to throw the carcass with whatever meat is left on it in the slow cooker with an onion and a carrot and a bay leaf or two, and let it cook on low all night.   The following morning, I pick off the meat and save the stock to make soup.   But after a couple Thanksgiving dinners now, I am getting tired of the traditional Thanksgiving flavors.  I made nachos for lunch and for dinner, I tried my hand at this soup, and it is terrific.  It tastes light and lemony.   It's just what I need after a couple days of really heavy eating.

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley
3 T olive oil
1 large onion,  minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and black pepper
1 t ground turmeric
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground ginger
Juice of a lemon (about 3 to 4 Tbsp)
Strips of lemon zest, from one lemon - peel it with a vegetable peeler
6 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
1 cup barley
Whatever leftover turkey you have kicking around
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook another minute, then mix in the turmeric, cumin, ground ginger and a generous pinch of salt.

Pour in the lemon juice and turkey stock and turkey and add the strips of lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, then add the barley. Simmer gently until the barley is cooked, about an hour. 
When the barley is cooked through, add the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lemon zest strips before serving.

Butter Rolls

I'm a blogging fool this weekend - I don't want to forget everything I cooked this Thanksgiving because it was so good.  Here's another recipe inspiration I got from Paul Virant....I never thought to bake rolls in my cast iron skillet. To make these rolls, you need a big 12 inch cast iron frying pan.   It keeps the rolls warm while you are waiting to serve them.

These rolls require no kneading, which is nice when the kitchen's already busy with other things.  I like to use my microwave oven as a "proofing box" - I heat a coffee cup full of water for 3 minutes on high, and leave it in the back of the even and place whatever I need to rise in it and shut the door.   The heat from the water makes a foolproof rise.   Ever since I started doing this, my breads always turn out right.

Butter Rolls

printer friendly

1 t instant yeast
1 1/2 c milk at room temperature
1 T honey
4 c all purpose flour
2 t kosher salt
6 T butter, cubed and softened

In a stand mixer bowl,  add milk and sprinkle yeast on top.   Don't stir, and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Then stir in honey.   Attach the dough hook to the mixer and while it is running on low speed, add half the flour and stir until a paste forms.  Then add the rest of the flour and salt and mix on low speed until smooth, about 4 minutes.   Lightly oil a large bowl, and set aside.   Add butter cubes to bread dough, mixing with your hands in incorporate the cubes evenly into the dough.  Place the dough in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until the dough is doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch the dough down and let it rise again for another 30 minutes or so.

Oil a 12 inch cast iron skillet, set aside.  Lightly flour a work surface, and place the dough on the counter and cut it into 30 golf ball sized balls.   Roll the dough into balls and place in tight concentric circles in the skillet. Cover the pan with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise until rolls have doubled in size.  At this point, you could place them in the fridge overnight, but let them come to room temp before baking.   Preheat oven to 350 F, and bake until dough is evenly browned and baked through, about 30 minutes.   Serve the rolls in the skillet to keep them warm at the table.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

I'm different, I guess.   I bet I am the only person around that would seek out a restaurant because I have read the cookbook of said restaurant.   Next time I am in Chicago, I plan on visiting one of Paul Virant's restaurants, Perennial Virant, which features his canned goods, or Vie, which is out in the suburbs.   It was this cookbook that caught my eye:

I'm interested in trying his recipes for aigre-doux, which is French for "sweet and sour" - canned sauces for savory dishes, but I haven't gotten a chance to do it.   Instead, I found a wonderful recipe for a cranberry-pear crisp that he suggests for the Thanksgiving table.   I didn't have any pears, so I made it with apple instead.  What makes it unique is the crumbly topping - instead of oats and brown sugar, this one is a sweeter crumble.  The texture is more like sand than chunks.  

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

printer friendly

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
5 c fresh cranberries
2 c sugar
2 c flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
1 c cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spread apples and cranberries in a 13X9 pan, sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar.  In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar, flours and salt on low speed.  With the mixer still running, add the butter and continue to mix until a coarse crumble forms.  Spread the crumble evenly over the fruit,, pressing it into the fruit.   Bake until the cranberry juices are bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes.

Upside Down Apple Gingerbread

I always make pie for Thanksgiving, except this year.   I just wasn't in the mood to do it, and I had some recipes kicking around that I wanted to try for a long time.   Maybe it's because I make pies year round, and gingerbread is something that only seems right in the fall and winter.   I found this recipe originally in an old Taste of Home cookbook, long before it became the rag of a magazine it is now, full of recipes pushing prepared food and paid for product placements.  Back in the day, it was full of people's own recipes and testimonials.   I used to love it!  I changed this recipe to add more ginger - to me, a gingerbread should have a real kick to it.   I also prefer a more robust blackstrap molasses flavor.

Upside Down Apple Gingerbread

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup brewed tea

Pour butter into a 9-in. square baking pan; sprinkle with brown sugar. Arrange apples over sugar; set aside.
For gingerbread, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, then molasses. Combine dry ingredients; add to sugar mixture alternately with tea, beating well after each addition.
Pour over apples. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm. Yield: 9 servings.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ann's Cheese Dumplings

My friend Ann is one of the best cooks I know.   I wanted to share her dad's recipe for cheese dumplings - these are terrific!

 Cheese Dumplings

3/4 c parmesan cheese (use the canned Kraft stuff in the green can.   The real stuff doesn't work)
1 egg
4 cups tomato  sauce she uses canned diced tomatoes liquified in the blender
1 zucchini cut into chunks
1 yellow squash cut into chunks

Knead egg and cheese together until you have a dough like mixture.  You want it to easily be able to form one inch balls.  Not too wet, not too dry, they should easily form into balls.

Heat the sauce until it is lava hot.   It works better if the sauce is slightly on the watery side.

Drop the balls in a few at a time after a minute or two they should bob up to the surface and swell up a bit.

When all the cheese balls have popped up add the squash chunks and cook until the squash is tender.

Thanksgiving thoughts

Thanksgiving always involved travel for me, but not the "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house" kind of idyllic scene.  Ours involved a trip to the faraway land called the "West Side". We'd load up in the car and go to my aunt's house....she lived on the west side....and we lived on the east side.   Native Detroiters speak in this parlance to describe themselves - if you live east of Woodward Avenue, you're what is known as an "east sider".  If you lived west of Woodward, you're a "west sider".   As a kid, I never knew any west siders, in fact, I rarely went west of I-75, let alone Woodward.   When I started working at Ford as an adult, I couldn't find my way around Dearborn because the streets weren't parallel like they are on the east side.   Every once in a while, I accidentally end up in another provenance of Detroit called "Downriver", which borders Dearborn, but it is a notable difference in white urban class status.  Dearborn considered to be more upscale than it's downriver neighbors of Allen Park or Taylor.  I couldn't find my way around the west side. None of the roads were numbered in mile increments, and familiar roads I knew like 15 Mile was called "Maple" and 8 Mile became "Base Line Road".   Weird!

A key difference of the east side vs. west side is that most of the Polish people ended up on the east side.  When the Detroit riots occurred in the 1960s, all the Polish crowd decided to head north of 8 Mile from Hamtramck on a beeline up Van Dyke.   Many landed in Warren, like my family, and as the white flight continued northward, many headed even further up to Clinton Twp. or Rochester during the 1980s.   But for some reason, my mom's sister actually stayed in the city, and sent her kids to Catholic school, and moved to the west side.   She lived in a really nice neighborhood....where Detroit cops lived and some of the Detroit Tigers had homes right on her street.  I don't remember exactly where it was, but I remember the car ride down 8 Mile (this is before I-696 made this commute much quicker) and we'd go under 2 bridges - the first one was the Woodward overpass and the second one was the Southfield Freeway.   We were officially deep into west side territory.   My aunt's house was way nicer than our house - it had a finished basement with a wet bar that my Uncle Carl dubbed "The Happy Hallow" complete with light up sign letting you know that, and really groovy Naugahyde bar stools that spun around.  My sister and I would take turns spinning each other around until we were nauseous.   We liked to spend time in the presence of our ultra hip cousins that were teenagers - the girls wore go go boots and bouffant hair styles and powder blue eye shadow and lots of eye liner, and our mysterious cousin Carl Junior that would come home from U of M for the weekend with his long hair.   I remember wondering if he was a "hippie" and if he took LSD.   Now, as an adult, I realize how far off base I was about him, a bookish man that studied philosophy and currently works in computer support.    

But the best part of my aunt's house was the pool table.   When I was a kid, I loved to shoot pool - I still do, in fact.   My dad taught us pool hall etiquette, i.e. always call your pocket for the 8 ball, do not take another turn if your last shot was "slop", make sure to chalk up the cue, etc.  There was strategy suggestions, too.   For example, shots that involved sending the cue ball across the length of the table are hard - he called them a "long green" shot.   Avoid them!  Or that maybe you wanted to have a "dog" -  to intentionally leave a ball in front of the pocket to block it from your opponent.  We kids would shoot pool any chance we got our hands on a cue.   Once we tired of playing pool, or the uncles decided they wanted to play, we'd play cards.   As small children, we were all taught how to play Pinochle, which is a really hard card game for a kid to learn how to play - there's all sorts of strategy and scoring things you needed to know.   Plus, it was hard to hold 12 cards in my small hands.  My Polish grandpa, who didn't speak much English, would yell at me in Polish if he could see my cards or I reneged.  I hated playing it, and was relieved when Euchre came into vogue, which only required 5 cards in a hand and there was the opportunity to win some money via gambling.   My dad's set wagering was always a dollar a game, 50 cents a euchre.

A No Brainer

Now, some of those traditions still carry on.   Tomorrow, I will drive to the east side to my sister's house.  Living in Ann Arbor means that I am far beyond even what is considered west side territory. I might as well live in another state.  My mother felt that Ann Arbor was "too far away" and would only travel here for Easter, in case there was some black ice on M-14.  She died in 2010, but we still follow her holiday rules: Thanksgiving at my sister's house, Christmas at my brother's and Easter here.  We don't have to worry about the black ice because it is 60 degrees today.  We'll play cards for sure, although I don't remember how to play Pinochle anymore, I'm sure there will be Euchre, maybe some Texas Hold 'Em. My sis has a pool table, so maybe we'll "shoot some stick" (as we used to call it).    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Books I Loved: Seventeeth Summer

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

I can't remember how I actually got a copy of this book when I was a kid - maybe it was a garage sale, or the neighbor girls had it, but it was vintage in the 1970s when I had it.  It was paperback, and I had it with this cover on it.   It was written in 1942, and published for adults, it became one of the first to capture a teenaged audience. Some scholars consider it the first "Young Adult" novel. Maureen Daly started writing it when she was 17 herself, and finished it when she was a senior in college.  It has never gone out of print. In fact, its latest reincarnation looks like this:

It is about a 17-year-old girl named Angie Morrow. It takes place in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Angie gets asked out on her first date by the local high school's basketball star, Jack Duluth, age 18. They fall in love but soon the summer will end, for Angie has to go to college in Chicago, and Jack is going back to his home in Oklahoma to help his uncle with the bakery business.

I always loved the description of that summer in Wisconsin.  Once, as a college student, I stopped in Fond du Lac just to see it - it didn't measure up to my expectations of how the book described the town, but I had to make the pilgrimmage.  There was something about how Maureen Daly described the place (and her own home town) that made me want to visit it.  I remember Jack taking Angie out for a sail on Lake Winnebago and whispering that she "sure looked pretty with the wind in her hair".  

Indeed, it was the way she described things that stuck in my head.   To this day, on a hot July day, I think of the beginning of the July chapter when she described the heat of summer:

It was hot. It was hot with a steady, beating heat that comes from a bare sky and a high sun. still and glaring, that covers the whole ground without a shadow. It was the kind of sun in which high school girls go about with their long silk hair pinned in knots on top of their head like scrubwomen, and little children  splash in tubs of shallow water in their back yards and older people drag mattresses onto airing porches and wait for a breeze in the still quiet heat of the evening.

I still think of Angie and Jack going out on their last date ever when they decided to ditch their plans for the evening to bring in the green tomatoes and wrap them in newspaper because her mom was worried about them every time the first frost of the fall catches me by surprise.    I think of Angie's mom telling her that it was good to travel in "clean of the morning" when she boarded the train for college to Chicago every time I leave early on a trip.   It is good to travel in the clean of the morning -so much better than leaving midday or at night.

I've got to find my copy of the book somewhere on my shelves.  It's been a long time since I've re read it.....     

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Used Books

I'm a sucker for used cookbooks - and sometimes, I like to peruse craft and gardening books, too.   One of my favorite haunts is the huge used book section of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Sale, held every Saturday 9 am to noon.   Since Ann Arbor is truly a melting pot of people, I can find a wide variety of cookbooks from all over.    This weekend was no exception - here's what I got:

I am a sucker for Junior League Cookbooks, no matter when or where they were published.   I have spent a lot of time in Louisville, KY for business, so this one caught my eye - especially because it has a "special Derby recipe section".   Louisville is one of my favorite US cities because it is beautiful and everyone is so friendly and nice and polite in a Southern hospitality sort of way, and the food is terrific.   I am always on the hunt for a recipe for burgoo - the spicy stew made of whatever wild game you have on hand, which is so popular in Kentucky.   My son and husband hunt, and it's hard to find recipes for rabbit, squirrel, venison, etc.   Sure enough, this book has one from a Mrs. John S. Rhodes.   I love that Junior League cookbooks of this era (1970s and earlier) always refer to the husband's name, but not the wife's first name.   Does the Junior League still do this?   I have a copy of the Junior League of Ann Arbor's Cookbook, which was published in the 1990s, but it doesn't give anyone credit for their recipes.    Still on my quest for burgoo...I also found this cookbook:

from the Garden club of Lexington.  This cookbook is still in print, so it must be pretty good.  Sure enough, there's a recipe for burgoo as well as bourbon balls, another Kentucky favorite that I would like to make this year for Christmas.   There is a good section of candy recipes and pickles and relishes too for canning....including one for pickled green tomatoes and pickled peaches.    Next up, I found:

I liked this book because it promises recipes for the slow cooker, pressure cooker and Dutch oven - all favorite techniques of mine. Interesting recipes like Haitian Chicken-in-a-Pot or Honduran Style Arroz Con Pollo.     Next, I got this pair of books because they looked liked they be interesting reads:

I'm not sure if I would ever cook anything from either, but who doesn't want to learn about Richard II's feasts and Elizabethan recipes?   Plus, Lorna Sass is a fine cookbook writer - I have her pressure cooking cookbooks and they are well done.   Lastly, who doesn't dig vintage Martha Stewart?

This one was written back in 1984 in hardcover, and it is filled with lots of Martha style writing, where everything is "just so" such as her Victorian Christmas party and her life with adorable baby Alexis and her charming husband Andy.    I know Martha has her haters but I've always loved the way she writes.   Wish she'd do more of it now....
So, I paid a whopping $7 for this stack of books that will entertain me for a few weeks!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Dexter Drama Club Cheeseball

 When I got married 20 years ago, I was given a Hallmark recipe book that I used to write my favorite recipes in longhand or physically clip and paste from the paper or magazines.   Now that I have this blog, I rarely use it anymore.  It's now more of a museum of recipes from a long way back in my cooking life, such as my recipe for Olga's Kitchen Bread or Bob Talbert's White Chicken Chili that I clipped from the Detroit Free Press.  It also has some of my favorites from the Ann Arbor News when it had a print edition and a decent cooking section every Wednesday.

I have a couple recipes I copied from The Complete Tightwad Gazette which was a book written back in the 90s about being frugal before it was as fashionable as it is today.  Most of the recipes she wrote about how to stretch your food dollar weren't very good, like adding water to leftover casseroles to make soup the next day.  Yuck!  If you are looking for a much better book on economical cooking, I would suggest An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler.   However, Amy Daczyzyn did leave me with one recipe that I have adapted as my own over the years for a cheese ball.  Her other recommendations, such as having a perpetual garage sale at your house or using a menstrual cup instead of a tampon really didn't leave a lasting impression on my life, but her cheese ball recipe has become mine. 

I have made it so often, I no longer use the recipe itself.   I ditched her suggestion of using pimientos in it in lieu of using more fresh peppers and I much prefer using garlic powder instead of garlic salt.  I added fresh ground pepper to the mix, too.  Not sure why she went for pimentos in the first place - they are way more expensive than red peppers.   She suggested making cheese balls for Christmas gifts, and I have to agree it's a great hostess gift.  I make it for family gatherings - at Christmas time, I like to make it with red and green peppers.  I also make them for the green room for every production of the Dexter Drama Club, and the high school kids love it.   I will make them in bulk the week of the show and store them in the fridge wrapped in plastic, or ahead of time for the holidays.   They freeze well!

Cheese Ball

1/4 brick cream cheese
1 T minced onion
1 t garlic powder
2 T mayonnaise
1/4 c green pepper, chopped fine
8 oz finely grated cheddar cheese
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 c chopped or ground nuts (optional - there's usually a kid with a nut allergy in every production, so I usually skip this when I make it for the drama club)

Combine all ingredients except the nuts in a medium bowl, it's easiest to fix with your hands.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  Form into a ball, and roll in nuts.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours so the flavor melds and the cheese softens and forms a cohesive ball.  Serve with crackers.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wood Chick BBQ Sauce for Canning

On this blog, I have written several times about my favorite recipe for barbecue sauce - it's one I tried from a Food Network recipe from an old episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.   It used to be that I watched FN every night when I couldn't fall asleep, but I never watch it anymore.   It's turned into a network devoted to "reality" (I put the term in quotes because anyone that thinks that these shows aren't scripted is fooling themselves) chef competitions like "Chopped".   I hate these shows - I love the old kind of shows that they used to have on Food Network, like Paula Deen without the studio audience, or the Barefoot Contessa or Alton Brown.   They showed people cooking recipes that I might actually try - now I have to go to PBS to get my fix, or the Hallmark network, although I don't watch that much now that they canceled Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry.  

A couple years ago, I developed a version of the Wood Chick BBQ sauce for canning as part of a blog contest I was in called Tigress Can Jam, but I developed that recipe in the dead of winter and I used canned tomato puree.   This year, I finally got around to trying it out with actual tomatoes. The 2nd week of October, we had a good frost and I called my friend Ann Ruhlig to see if she had any tomatoes left and she said she had, and that they were "good for canning", which is a great euphemism to describe a tomato that isn't picture perfect...i.e. they might have a few bad spots.   I picked up a box of tomatoes the size of a ream of paper for $10, which is a great deal!  I got them home and cored them and cut off the bad spots, and followed a great technique I learned from Linda Ziedrich for making tomato puree for canning.  Core each tomato, give it a gentle squeeze one at a time as you put them into a stock pot   Cook the tomatoes until they are soft, then drain them in a colander.    Then process them through a food mill - I like to use the fruit and vegetable strainer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer,but a Foley style food mill will work, too.    Tomato puree made this way will not be too watery, and the tomatoes don't have to be peeled first, which is a giant pain to do.  I am not one to can tomatoes straight up for this reason - it's too labor intensive to peel tomatoes.  I'll peel them for salsa and that's it!

The beauty of this recipe is that it can be doubled or halved or whatever, depending on how much tomato puree you might end up with.   Note that you must keep the ratio of the ingredients the same, or you may end up with a recipe that isn't safe for canning i.e. 10 cups tomato puree means you'd add only 2 3/4 c chopped onions, etc. 

Wood Chick Style Barbecue Sauce for Canning

20 c tomato puree
5.5 c. finely chopped onions
6 c. white vinegar
3.5 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dry mustard
1 T. black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic
1 T. paprika
1/2 c. maple syrup
3/4 c. honey
1 T. ground cloves
2 T. canning salt
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. hot chili powder
2 T. allspice

In a large stock pot, combine tomatoes puree and onions and bring to a boil, boil gently for 30 minutes until onions soften, about 30 minutes. At this point add the remaining ingredients and boil gently stirring often until the sauce reaches the consistency of thin commercial barbecue sauce, about an hour. Prepare the canner and lids, and then ladle hot sauce into jars, removing bubbles and leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 35 minutes.  Makes about 5 pints. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

PGT: Pickled Green Tomatoes

PGT with my dead tomato plants
Last Tuesday, October 9, we had a killing frost.   I ran outside in the waning light at dusk to get whatever tomatoes and peppers I could grab off the vines, and I was shocked at the quantity.  I had a very prolific cherry tomato plant that produced hundreds of tiny Roma shaped tomatoes this summer, and when I went outside to make a mad grab for the remainder which was about 5 pounds.   I wasn't convinced that cherry tomatoes would do well ripening in a dark box in the pantry.   These tomatoes were very firm, even when ripe, so I thought they'd make a good candidate for a pickled green tomato. 

I read in a recipe book that pickled green tomatoes are excellent on salads, and I am thinking ahead to January when good tasting tomatoes will be hard to come by.    So, I pickled my stash and the results came out excellent.   I started out by using a recipe from one of my favorite canning books - the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but I took some liberties by replacing the dill with some premium pickling spice I had from Penzeys, and I added some Ball Pickle Crisp to insure that these tomatoes don't get mushy in the jar.  The results came out better than I expected - tangy, spicy and firm.   I think they will be great on a salad this winter. 

PGT (Pickled Green Tomatoes)
makes 7 pints

3 1/2 c cider vinegar
3 1/2 c water
1/4 c pickling salt
5 lb green cherry tomatoes or quartered small firm larger tomatoes
14 cloves garlic
1/4 cup mixed pickling spices
Ball Pickle Crisp
In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt.  Pack tomatoes into hot jars and leave a generous 1.2 inch headspace.  Add 2 cloves garlic, 2 t pickling spice and a pinch or so of Pickle Crisp to each jar.   Ladle brine over tomatoes, wipe rim and place lids on jars and adjust bands.   Process in a boiling water bath for15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kraut 2.0

I put some kraut in the crock around Labor Day. and I had been concerned about it.  The cabbage had never generated enough of its own brine, so I had to add some.  This hasn't happened to me in all my years of kraut making; usually the cabbage is so juicy it will make its own with just the added salt.  Maybe it is because of the drought this year....I wasn't sure.   Then, it never really grew the grayish scum so common in wild fermentation; instead the brine took on a brownish hue.   So I gave it up for dead, and I bought a giant head of cabbage last weekend at the Dexter Farmer's Market for $2.  

My "root cellar" is actually the laundry room on the lower level of my Brady Bunch style split level....

The house used as the Brady house in L.A.

I never got around to starting my kraut over the weekend, and the giant head of cabbage was laying in the downstairs hallway.   Even though I was dead tired, I decided something needed to be done, so I started shredding.  When I went to dump the old kraut out, I decided to sample it and it was the BEST KRAUT EVER MADE!  NECTAR OF THE GODS! ! I am so glad I didn't throw it out I packed it into a couple half gallon jars and put it in the fridge and I put the new kraut down for the ferment.  Like the earlier batch, it seemed dry but I won't worry this time and I'll add some brine tomorrow if it hasn't made it's own.   (1  teaspoon canning salt per 1 cup water) Curious about how to make your own kraut?  It's the easiest pickle a novice can make....check out my blog post about how to do it.  

Vintage Art: Halloween Car

I got a copy of this postcard at Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village, which is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday. 
From  the Henry Ford Arte House collection: A jack-o-lantern character drives a fanciful watermelon automobile with a witch and black cat as his passengers. A bat flies alongside and a crescent moon is in the sky. Postcard made by Raphael Tuck & Sons Post Cards, about 1907-1908. Postmarked Oct. 31, 1908, Nebraska. A book, print and holiday card publisher in London, England, Raphael Tuck & Sons printed as well as imported colorful chromolithographed postcards. In the 1890s they opened a New York City office and their postcards proved immensely popular with the American public through the 1910s.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Beans and Politics

I get tons of political phone calls these days - most of them robocalls, some of them fake polls, some on behalf of a political party wanting my vote.  Ironically, I am rarely called on behalf of the candidate I am planning on voting for - it's the other guy who is wasting his money on me.   Based on the calls I receive and what I have heard about this presidential campaign, I am in a key market demographic..the white suburban mom "swing voter".   On paper, I look like I should definitely be voting for this guy.    I live in the right neighborhood, I make the right salary, my education and career indicate all bets should be "on" for this guy.  It's nice to be coveted, but it's come to the breaking point when I was awakened from a rare Saturday afternoon nap by a robocall.    For the record, a phone call (especially one made by a recording) will not change my vote.    I like to get a live person on the phone whenever I can.   I can usually stop them cold, midscript, by saying "I don't vote by political party, I vote by my morals.  Over the years, I have found that it would be rare for me to vote for a candidate from your political party.  On occasion, it has happened, but my conscience is my guide."  I've used this line in heated political conversations, too.  It always makes the other person stop and think....I can see the gears turning in their head (and sometimes a look of shame passes across their face) as they think "Am I voting with my conscience?"   Then I turn and walk away.  I am not sure if I changed their mind, but I get the satisfaction in knowing I made them think about their reasons for why they are voting for the other guy. 

In the days before robocalling, cookbooks were often used to reach out for the woman's vote.   In Ann Arbor, we are fortunate to have culinary historian Jan Longone and her culinary archive at the Clements Library.  I've never met Jan, but I have learned from reading about her that cookbooks were often used to gain favor among women voters.   I think it's time that these candidates quit the junk mail and phone calls and start sending this voter some cookbooks!   The other day, while indulging in one of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes, rummaging through the cookbook section of the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Sale, I found a Michigan Bean Commission cookbook.   Michigan is a top producer of dried beans.   There's no date on the booklet, so I am not sure when it was published, but my guess it must have been the early 60s.   My friend Ellen flipped open the booklet, and the first recipe we spied was this one:

Not to be partisan, on another page, I found this recipe:

Wouldn't it be great if all the politicians gave us their favorite recipes?   I wondered if our current governor had a favorite bean recipe?   I tottered over to the Michigan Bean Commission's website to see if Governor Snyder had one, but alas, there isn't one.   I always stock Michigan beans in my larder, so I decided to give some of these recipes a shot.  Our former governor George Romney inspired me to make bean soup a couple weeks ago, but I took a lot of liberties with his recipe...I added pork sausage instead of salt pork and threw in some baby kale.   It was great!  This weekend, I dabbled in baked beans.  I was surprised that John F. Kennedy, a Massachusetts native, would dare put anything "tomato-like" such as ketchup in his baked beans, that being frowned upon by East Coast folk, but I let his recipe be my guide.   I doctored it up a little bit....and they were the best baked beans I have ever made.   They were great to make on a cold fall Saturday....we will eat them tonight with sausage for dinner.  I think baked beans are always better then next day, and my husband likes to eat his cold (yuck).  I will heat mine up. 

Baked Beans

4 cups dry Michigan Navy Beans
1 smoked ham hock
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1 cup ketchup
2 T dry mustard
1 T salt
2 T Worchesterschire sauce
2 c water

Rinse and sort beans, cover with water and bring to a boil in a large pot for 5 minutes.  Shut off heat and let beans soak for an hour, drain.   Add hock and cook beans until soft over low heat, this takes about an hour or two.  Remove hock and drain again.  Dice up hock meat, add to beans.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and bake in a 250 F oven for 6 hours.  Add water if beans start to look dry.  Remove cover and bake for another hour. 

I am looking forward to trying this recipe on a scout campout as a "bean hole" recipe, as described by my vintage bean cookbook...

"Whether it's in the sand at the shore or in the woods while you are hunting, here's a great dish most outdoorsmen and all Boy Scouts know!  Use your favorite recipe with tender boiled beans ready for baking.  Dig a hole next to your campfire and put the Dutch oven down in it.  Before you retire for the night, put some hot coals and hot rocks on top and throw on a little wood.  Serve the beans for breakfast."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumnal Equinox

This week, I could definitely feel the seasons turn.  It seems like overnight, my tomato plants started to look past their prime, and there was a cold snap in the air that came upon us on Friday evening and hasn't yet left us.  We closed the windows and pondered putting on the furnace, but I hate to give the summer up yet.    The average fall frost date for my area is October 2, which means I should have a couple weeks left.    Sure, we are guaranteed a spell of Indian summer - I can remember kayaking in 80 degree heat last year in late October, but for now, it feels like fall for sure. 
According to Greek mythology/Druid/Pagan/Wiccan culture, on the autumnal equinox is a time of celebration.  I'm no expert in paganism, but the festival is called Mabon, and it is a time to recognize balance, since the earth is equally in darkness and in light on the equinox. 
Being a Catholic, I have always appreciated how the early church borrowed from the pagan calendar for it's feast days.   Thus, the feast of St. Michael (Michaelmas) became associated with the autumnal equinox.   According to the Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, Michaelmas is to be celebrated with eating a roast goose - in fact, it is said that Queen Elizabeth had learned of the defeat of the Spanish Armada while she was eating her Michaelmas goose.   In Scotland, the custom was to eat St. Michael's bannock, a buttermilk cake that looks interesting. I'll have to try making it some day. 
For me, I am celebrating the equinox by making curried cauliflower soup. I love making this soup this time of year - it's a beautiful chartreuse color and it has a spicy kick that lends well to the chill in the air.   Plus there's a ton of cauliflower at the farmer's market this time of year.   Enjoy! 

Curried Cauliflower Soup

printer friendly

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 onions, sliced 1 inch thick
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups water
2 cups reduced-sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450°. On a baking sheet, toss cauliflower with vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread out, and roast until the florets turn brown, about 25 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder, cauliflower, water, and broth; cover, and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups cauliflower to a bowl, and set aside. Put remaining florets into a blender or food processor, add 1 teaspoon salt, and process until smooth. Stir purée into broth in pan, and reheat if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls, and top with reserved florets and parsley.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Eat Your Books

 My problem is that I have a wee bit of a cookbook addiction....

This is only one small part of my vast collection....even though it looks a little unkempt....I guess it's more than a little unkempt...there is sort of a method to my madness.  They are filed by subject.  The top shelf is canning and food preserving, the middle shelf is crockpot cookbooks, a stack of vintage scouting books, and camp cookery.  The bottom shelf is part of my self published/fundraiser cookbooks.  I have 6 other similar bookcases filled with cookbooks, so trying to find a recipe can sometimes be a challenge.   You'd think someone with my book fanaticism would find a better way. 

It all started back in the 5th grade, I was a library aide at Rinke Elementary School in Warren, MI.   The future nerdly engineer in me loved the Dewey decimal system and shelving books.  There was a place for everything, and every bit of information had a spot.  There was the smell of the card catalog - in the days before the internet, we got to page through thousands of cards describing every book in the library.   I knew I could wander down the row where the 900s were shelved and find a book on whatever subject I was currently obsessed with...I can distinctly remember finding a book about meteorology and exactly where it was shelved in that library.  Even back in 1975, I was obsessed with the weather.  I can't remember our librarian's name, but I can remember the spot where that book was located still to this day.  I also remember where all the LHOTP books were kept (LHOTP my shorthand lingo for "Little House on the Prairie") and the Beverly Cleary books, and the series of books we called "The Betsy Books" (written by Carolyn Haywood) and the Encyclopedia Brown books.  

I wanted to spend my whole life there, but there was class to attend, so I volunteered at my church's religious education library on Wednesday afternoons.  The library was much smaller than Rinke's library, and they didn't have all the subjects we had at Rinke, but they did have a vast collection of books about the mysterious sightings of the Virgin Mary, who I also was very devoted to at that age.   There were less books to shelve there, so I got bored pretty quick with that library.   Later on, when I went away to college and the Dewey Decimal System was no longer used to index the library, I was heartbroken.    I never spent that much time at Michigan Tech's Library, because their non engineering holdings were limited, but I loved to spend time at the Houghton Library to get my fix of whatever my latest obsession was.  I can distinctly remember the painting of Douglass Houghton that hung over the fireplace in that tiny library, and also checking out all the Dorothy Parker books I could get my hands on via interlibrary loan. 

So, for a cookbook junkie like me, I had the opportunity to try out a wonderful website called Eat Your Books, which is a cookbook indexing tool. At first, I wasn't sure why I would need something like this, but I quickly became hooked.   How it works is that you search for all the book titles in your collection, and put them on your electronic bookshelf.  Then, if you want to look for a specific recipe, you can type in the ingredient and it will find them all in your holdings.   For example, I currently have an overabundance of basil in my garden that I want to use in a dinner recipe for tonight. I am weary of eating pesto at this point.   I could start paging through all the indexes of all my books, but I'd be here all afternoon,   Instead, all I have to do  is search for "basil" in the "main dish" category, and it will pull all of the potential recipe ideas from my collection.  I could make Ina Garten's Provencal Potato Salad, or Pasta Alla Checca from Lucinda Scala Quinn.    A click on the title shows the recipe's ingredients.   A user still has to locate the cookbook in her collection to get to the actual recipe, so I guess this means I need to invent some kind of Dewey Decimal System for my cookbooks.  Got any ideas?

The good people at Eat Your Books have generously offered a reader of my blog a complimentary lifetime membership (normally $25/year).   My first ever contest!  I will choose a winner at random from those that comment below about their favorite cookbook, and also you must "like" the Eat Your Books facebook page.  The membership is non transferable.  The contest closes midnight Sept. 15.   I look forward to reading your comments. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Essence of Ann Arbor

For a while now, I've been wanting to write a post about Ann Arbor, but I struggled with what image to associate with the city.  I suppose, for many people, the words "Ann Arbor" bring to mind the U of M football stadium, a.k.a "The Big House" ...

...but for me, it doesn't mean anything.  First of all, even though I went to U of M for a while, I don't consider it my alma mater in any shape or form.  I don't wear the maize and blue, deep down I'm a Michigan Tech Husky at heart - I wear the black and gold.  When I was an MBA student at the U of M in the early 90s, I used to buy season tickets to the football games for others with my student discount, and I even attended one (actually a half) of a game, and decided I wouldn't need to go back any time soon.  Your "seat" is actually only a marked 18 inches of allowable butt width on a bench, and evidently a lot of U of M fans are super fat, at least they were in my row.   So I never got to sit down, and it was blisteringly hot and very, very crowded.  So, unless I get invited to one of the new sky boxes, I think I'd just rather watch the football game at home on TV.    But I think it would be fun to go to the tailgate parties instead of the actual game, maybe I'll try that this year.  The funny thing about U of M football fans is that they are usually people that would never, ever be accepted into the'd think that for that reason alone, they'd root for Michigan State.  But no, it seems that the Wolverines attract a certain segment of the population that has been dubbed the "Walmart Wolverines" in this spoof of the Pure Michigan ads.  

So, what image best conjures up Ann Arbor?   Maybe it's John Sinclair....

 I guess these days most people wouldn't know who John Sinclair is, and I can remember trying to explain who he was and what he did to my niece when she was considering attending U of M, but it's hard to explain why so many people cared that a guy got thrown in jail for smoking pot in the early 1970s to a teenager in this generation.   Besides, Ann Arbor is no where near as funky and earthy as it was back then.   As I am fond of saying "Ypsi is the new Ann Arbor" these days.   Ypsilanti, the town due east of Ann Arbor, is where all the hippies live now.    Speaking of Ypsi, at least they have a landmark that everyone recognizes as true Ypsi....

There are places I am very fond of visiting in Ann Arbor, such as the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market... 

...but I can't say that it brings the city of Ann Arbor to my mind right away.   For many people, especially the tourists, I guess Ann Arbor means Zingerman's....

...and while I like Zingerman's, should a city's iconic image be a business?  I don't think so.   Maybe the Ann Arbor Art Fair?'s another tourist destination avoided by most locals and, like Ann Arbor's hippie counter culture, is a shadow of it's former self.  

I guess the bottom line is that the essence of Ann Arbor really can't be captured in an image, because it is so many things to me.  I'll try to use words to describe it instead:

  • Smart people - sometimes too smart for their own good.  In Ann Arbor, you can always find someone that knows (or thinks they know) more than you do about something.  This can be helpful sometimes and irritating a lot of the time.  
  • Multicultural - In Ann Arbor, it truly is a melting pot of people from all over the place.  For that reason, if you are looking for an obscure ingredient to make an ethnic dish you once read about in Saveur, you can find it somewhere in this town.
  • Open minded - say you want to do something a little out of the mainstream, like have a blessing ceremony for your same sex union on the vernal equinox presided over by a warlock, you can do it in Ann Arbor.  It would be easy to pull together in a few hours.   You want to walk down the street wearing a bishop's mitre and a racoon skin coat and orange corduroys?  Go right ahead - no one will bat an eye.  I've seen it done - in fact I used to play guitar with a guy that this was his regular "about town" outfit. 
  • Temporary - Ann Arbor is a town that many people spend some time in, but few people spend their life here.   People are always moving from and to Ann Arbor, as a result, I find I know people all over the world now that I met here first.   I'm one of the minority that has hung around - it will be 20 years this fall. 
So, what's Ann Arbor mean to you?  Do tell...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Taste of Home Magazine - Then and Now

I picked up a vintage Taste of Home cookbook at the Dexter Daze Library Book Sale, and I am so glad.   I just love the old Taste of Home Magazine - when it was founded back in 1993, it was full of folksy witticisms like "My Moms Best Meal" and "Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here" for when you are looking for a recipe that would feed 100 people.  It was the kind of recipes Grandma used to make.   I'm not sure when the magazine changed to it's current format, which is very commercially oriented with tons of product placements,  but it has certainly lost its soul.  The closest thing you can get to it is a Penzey's Catalog, which tells the stories of it's recipe authors.  So whenever I can find an old TOH cookbook, I pick it up.  And this book is from it's inaugural year, 1993.  

Some of the recipes I have bookmarked for trying include:

Upside Down Apple Gingerbread - sounds delicious for fall
Sloppy Joes for 100 - between football and Boy Scouts, I know this is going to come in handy.
Southern Fried Baked Steak - something new to do with round steak
Spicy Rice Casserole - I've got lots of pork sausage in the freezer; I bought half a hog from the neighbor kid.
Cajun Corn Soup sounds like it would be a great pantry meal
Scotch Broth Soup - something I can make with all my soup bones.  I just bought a side of beef.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ann Arbor Old German Restaurant Potato Salad

Ann Arbor has been home to several German restaurants - most notably Metzgers, the Heidelberg and the Old German.   The only one that remains as it once was is the Heidelberg - the other two were victims of the sky high rent in downtown Ann Arbor.   Metzgers closed and reinvented itself in a strip mall halfway on the freeway between Ann Arbor and Dexter, and the Old German became Grizzly Peak Brewery.    However, many Ann Arbor townies fondly remember the Old German as their favorite. And a favorite dish from the Old German is the kartoffel salat, or potato salad.    A party store in town still makes it for sale in their cooler.  

I wrote a post a couple years back about the demise of the Ann Arbor News Food Section, and their wonderful "Kitchen Mailbox" feature. Readers could write in and ask for their favorite recipe from local restaurants.   I could never find a recipe for the Old German Potato Salad in the Ann Arbor News, but they often featured other recipes from the German restaurants.   A reader of my blog posted in the comments of my blog post about how much they wanted the Old German Potato Salad recipe.   So I went on a quest to find it.....and I finally did!

About 12 years ago, a waitress from the Old German self published a recipe book of restaurant favorites., and I finally laid my hands on a copy of it.   I found the recipe for the famous potato salad and there's really nothing to it - I improved upon it here because the one on the book is a little vague and made it a little tangier....the  vinegar to oil ratio was a bit too lackluster for my taste.

Old German Potato Salad

8 medium potatoes, unpeeled and whole
1/4 c sliced white onion (thinner is better - use a mandoline or food processor if you have one)
3 T. vegetable oil
1/4 c cider vinegar
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 can chicken broth

Cook potatoes whole until just tender.   After they have cooled enough to handle, peel and slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick.  In another bowl, mix together remaining ingredients and pour over potato slices.  Let stand for 30 minutes until serving and stir gently - serve at room temperature.  Refrigerate any leftovers.