Monday, December 23, 2019

Pumpkin Roll (and a blast from the past)

I was trying to come up with a holiday dessert and when listening to a food podcast, I was reminded of pumpkin roll

I had forgotten about pumpkin roll.   I think the last time I had it, it was at the start of my engineering career.    Back then, suppliers often had sales guys (they were always men) that were taking us out to lunch or sports events to try to get the business.   Typically it was centered around taking the male engineers to strip clubs or steak houses, but they were always at a loss  as to how to entertain women engineers such as myself.    For example, a supplier used to have a golf outing where the "caddies" were exotic dancers moonlighting from their regular gig at B.T.s, (short for Booby Trap) one of Dearborn's many strip clubs at the time.   I knew what was going on and I asked the sales guy  how come I didn't get invited to the golf outing because I liked to golf?   It was fun to watch him twist in the wind on that one.  These days, this kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore.   Back in the day, these poor sales guys just didn't know what to do with us women engineers.  They might try to enlist their wives to help by taking Andy and me out to dinner with them, instead of the strip club plan that had worked in the past.   However, this often resulted in Andy being forced to make small talk with some sales guy's stay at home wife while the sales guy would talk shop with me.    Fun times!

In those early days of my career, I was working on steering columns.  Back then, Ford made steering columns (now we just buy them premade) and I was the engineer on certain components of steering columns.  Since I was a rookie, I was assigned various and sundry fasteners  and parts that didn't change much, like small stampings and spacers and bearings.   In those days, the small companies that might make a fastener or stamping were often mom and pop shops, so they didn't really have a book of business that would be able to sustain a salesman, so they would hire an independent contractor type that would sell a "dukes mixture" of little stuff.     Their expertise might be that they had a lot of Ford business, and would represent a lot of little companies.    They would have 10 business cards, each with a different logo on them, and it would say something like:

John Q. Salesman
(Torrington was actually one of the small stuff suppliers I worked with then.  I had to google them to see what happened to them, the link.  Fascinating history)

These sales guys that were in business for themselves could best be described as "swinging dicks".  I am not sure if it is politically correct to use that term anymore, but it used to mean a "guy that thinks he is a big shot".    In the early 90s, the business was already starting to change and the swinging dicks were on their way out, and along with them, their huge expense accounts.   There used to be several restaurants in Dearborn that catered to this type of sales guy.   The Chambertin .....Topper ....the restaurant at the Dearborn Inn that everyone called the "Fatman's Club" because of the prime rib buffet and  all you can eat shrimp cocktail.  Then there was Kiernans.     The last time I had pumpkin roll, it was 1991 at Kiernan's.    The sales guy was likely wearing a double breasted suit and had perfectly coiffed silver hair.     He picked me up from my office in building 5 in what was probably a Lincoln Town Car, and we headed over to this dark wood paneled restaurant on Michigan Avenue.    Kiernan's was the kind of place that has a coat check.  I can remember the dude telling the hostess something like "Stella, take me to my regular table!" and the older, well put together lady led us to his lair where there was a gold "reserved" sign awaiting our arrival.     This was the kind of place that you ordered steak and a lot of it.   It probably came with a wedge salad with bacon bits and a baked potato with sour cream and chive.   And, for some strange reason, pumpkin roll!  I am not sure why it was pumpkin roll, perhaps it was December?  Anyway, I don't remember the steak I ate or even the name of the salesman, let alone whatever bit he was trying to sell me on.  Torx screw? Tinnerman nuts?    I spent an inordinate amount of time of my career working on fasteners....something they never tell you that will happen in engineering school because it isn't glamorous.   But I do remember the pumpkin roll.     

So I set out to make a pumpkin roll this holiday season.   Unlike with pie, if you have leftover pumpkin roll, you can bring the unsliced part to your next holiday gathering and no one will know it is your leftovers.     After much googling around, I found that every recipe required a jelly roll pan, which is 15"x10" which I don't have.   So I developed one to make in a 1/2 sheet pan, which is 16.5"x11.5".   Here's how I did it....

Pumpkin Roll

what you need for supplies
1/2 sheet pan
waxed paper
Powdered sugar
Thin cotton dish towel

Ingredients for cake
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1.5 T pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
4 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 c pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c sugar

Ingredients for filling
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for decoration)

Preheat oven to 375 F.Grease sheet pan with butter and then place a piece of waxed paper on top of the butter.   This will ensure you can get the cake out of the pan without cracking.  Also grease the inside rim of the pan.   Liberally dust the dish towel with powdered sugar.

To make the cake, mix lour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in small bowl.  In another bowl. beat eggs  and add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients.    Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly in pan.  Rap pan on counter a few times to get the air bubbles out.   Bake for for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk together cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl until smooth.

Once the cake has reached room temperature, transfer the cake roll to the counter and carefully it until it is flat again (the ends curl up a bit). Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over cake, Then carefully re-roll the cake.  Tightly wrap the pumpkin roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

To serve, unwrap the roll and slice.   Sprinkle with powdered sugar.   The roll freezes well when wrapped.

The car business sure has changed in the 30 years I have worked in it.  Gone are the martini lunches, now replaced with non stop meetings and powerpoint and data reviews and a Panera boxed lunch or maybe some Subway, if you are lucky.   I wonder what the swinging dicks would think of that?

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Tomato Kasundi

Summer is officially over!  I bought the last of the tomatoes that Sharon Alexander had left in her market.   She is closing down for the season today, and the tomatoes she had left were marked down and had seen better days, but I knew they would be fine for this canning project.   I cut off the spots that weren't looking too good.   I also threw in some of her green tomatoes since I didn't have enough ripe ones.    She had lots of her home grown red peppers on the clearance rack, and some ghost peppers too that I used for the hot peppers.    This sauce was delicious when I simmered some chicken breasts in it for dinner the other night.   This morning, I had some with my omelette.   I plan on using it for a sauce with some garbanzo beans for lunch this week as well.   I found this recipe on the Ball website, but I modified it for what I had in the larder.  Perfect end of the season canning project!

Tomato Kasundi
(makes about 4 pints)

5 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp salt
3 red bell peppers
1 large onion, small diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 ghost peppers, chopped
3 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup brown mustard seeds
3 tsp turmeric
2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups brown sugar

Pre-heat broiler. Toss chopped tomatoes with salt and set aside in a colander to drain excess liquid.   Broil whole bell peppers turning every few minutes, until skins are charred. Remove peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, let rest 15 minutes or until skins easily peel off. Seed and chop peppers.  Toast black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper and turmeric in a small skillet for 2 minutes over low heat, until fragrant. It smells fantastic! Combine chili peppers, garlic, ginger and spices in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to puree. Add a tablespoon of the vinegar to loosen if paste is too thick.

Heat vinegar and sugar in a large pot over medium heat, add pureed seasonings and bring to a simmer. Add onions and red peppers. Strain tomatoes and add to seasonings in pot. Simmer, stirring frequently until all tomato liquid has evaporated and the kasundi is thick, between 60 and
90 minutes.

Prepare boiling water canner while kasundi is cooking. Heat jars in simmering water until ready to use, do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside with bands. Ladle hot kasundi into a hot jar leaving a ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim. Center lid on jar and apply band, adjust to fingertip tight. Place jar in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are
lled. Process jars 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove lid, let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool 12-24 hours. Check lids for seal, they should not flex when center is pressed.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

2 Quick Breads

I was looking for a cooking project for this beautiful Sunday afternoon.   I had some sad looking apples sitting on my counter top for a while.   They had seen better days, but I wanted to use them instead of throwing them out.   I had some whole wheat flour I "imported" from the UP in the freezer from Freedom Mills in Skandia.  (I need to remember this recipe of theirs).  After doing much googling, I found the a recipe I wanted to modify to make some apple bread that would have plenty of protein and fiber.   I modified it to make do with what I had on hand.  It's the top bread in the photo above.

Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Crumble topping
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons dry uncooked oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 cup dry oats/oatmeal
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded, unpeeled apples 
1/3 cup chopped black walnuts
1 cup Zante currants

Combine crumble topping ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut out an 8-by-4-inch rectangle of parchment paper and place in the bottom of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Spray pan with cooking spray.  Place dry oats into a blender and process into a flour-like consistency. Combine oat flour, wheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, honey, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl; add sugar, stirring until combined. Add apples; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; stir just until combined. Gently stir in walnuts and currants.

Pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle with crumble topping. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

I also have been on a quest to make a savory zucchini bread.   I was thinking something with plenty of zucchini, some whole wheat flour, some thyme and Parmesan cheese.   I found this recipe on Taste of Home   to use as a starting point.   Here is where I ended up:

Parmesan Thyme Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 t. dried thyme 
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup shredded peeled zucchini
1 tablespoon grated onion

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, salt, baking powder and baking soda and thyme. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, sugar and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zucchini and onion.

Pour into a greased and floured 9x5-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Pickled Cauliflower

How did September fly by without a single blog post from me?   Too much business travel, that is why!  I am glad to be home.   Back in September, I taught a canning class for the Ann Arbor District Library, and only 2 people came.   I am wondering if the canning fad has officially ended?   I made this pickled cauliflower, which is an excellent side dish for a work sack lunch or a picnic.   I love making pickles that can stand in for a salad.    We made this recipe from the Penn State Extension Service  but I subbed in hot peppers for the mild ones.   It came out quite good!  I entered it into the Downtown Home and Garden pickle contest, but once again, the 1st place winner wasn't really a preserved pickle.   It was some cucumbers marinated in lemon juice in a jar.   I finally broke down and wrote them a message about having a separate category for those kind of pickles.   After all, you don't need to buy a case of canning jars if you are making a refrigerator pickle like that, or freezer jam.    Anyway, if you want to make a *real pickle* try the Penn State recipe!  It's great....I've also made it with brussel sprouts before.   Delicious!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Cowboy Cookies

Way back when the world was a simpler place,  and when Presidential elections weren't as dramatic as they are today, the potential First Ladies engaged in a cookie recipe contest.   In 2000, Laura Bush vied for cookie fame with her Cowboy Cookie recipe vs. Tipper Gore's Gingersnap Cookie.   Of course, the chocolate chip cookie won by a landslide.   It takes a pretty refined palate to appreciate a gingersnap, which most people don't have.   I do love a ginger cookie a lot of the time, but when cowboy cookie recipes started populating my corner of the internet, I had to try my hand at some.   I found a NYT recipe for Laura' Bush's cookie, and I thought I would give it a try.  I modified it a bit because it made a TON of cookies and I like bittersweet chocolate.    The end result is quite possibly the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever made in my life.   This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Cowboy Cookies

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1/2  tablespoon baking powder
1/2  tablespoon baking soda
1/2  tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon salt
1 1/2  sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4  cups granulated sugar
3/4  cups packed light-brown sugar
2  eggs
1/2  tablespoon vanilla
1 10 oz pkg  Ghirardelli  bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2  cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1  cups unsweetened flake coconut
1  cups chopped pecans (8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in sugars, and combine thoroughly.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla. By hand, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from rack to cool.

Thimbleberry Jam 2019

It was a cold wet spring in the Keweenaw, so the thimbleberries were a bit late this year, which was lucky for me because it aligned with our August vacation.   I had a little over 2 lbs of frozen berries from a couple summers ago, and we picked about 4.5 lbs of berries this year. 

How I make jam is equal parts, by weight, with sugar.  That's it - no pectin needed.   We were short on jelly jars here at the lakehouse....they must all be downstate.   I went to Swifts to buy lids, not realizing I had way too many up here already.   I am short lids at home, my canning kitchens have become unbalanced.  

One of the best purchases I have ever made for canning is the outdoor canning rig I got several years ago.  I love canning outside!  Our total yield for this year was 112 oz. for about 9 hours of work total, including picking.    

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Lakehouse Cooking: Cheater Pulled Pork

I have been making pulled pork by this method for years now. which I originally heard about on Splendid Table back in the Lynn Rosetto Kasper days.   The original method was described in this cookbook by Mindy Merrell and R.B. Quinn, who are Nashville based food writers.  I'm a huge fan of Nashville food....

This cookbook is all about using liquid smoke to create BBQ flavor indoors.  For my pulled pork, I use a half bottle of liquid smoke and whatever rub I feel like making.    I buy my pork straight from the farmer so I have the butcher cut up my roasts into steaks for easier cubing.  This recipe is great for when we have guests at our lake house, because we can put it in the crock pot and forget about it all day and go up to Copper Harbor or hiking or whatever, and dinner will be ready when we get back to the house.   I buy some crusty rolls and the best bottled BBQ sauce I can find.   Super easy!

For the pork:

One 5- to 6-pound boneless Boston butt pork roast or same weight of boneless country-style pork ribs
1/4 cup of your favorite rub  (I like Alton Brown's Rub #9)
1/2 cup bottled smoke (I like hickory)
Barbecue sauce of your choice

Since I don't often have Rub #9 mixed up at the lakehouse, I will make a simple rub with what I often have on hand here:

2 T paprika
2 T kosher salt
2 T coarsely ground black pepper
1 T garlic powder
2 T dry mustard

Cut the pork butt into medium (2- to 3-inch) chunks (the ribs don't need to be cut up).  Put the pieces in a large slow cooker. Sprinkle the meat with the rub, turning the pieces to coat evenly. Add the bottled smoke. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 10 to 12 hours, until the meat is pull-apart tender.   Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed platter or baking sheet. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Pull the meat into strands. It should shred very easily. Serve the barbecue piled on buns with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mom and Rhubarb

Wow!  I am not sure how May got away from me but it did.   It has been a busy time at work, I am changing jobs and trying to get the hang of the new thing.    We went up to the lakehouse in early May to watch Eddie graduate.   The weather was cold and snowy and rainy, and I didn't really take on any cooking projects when I was up there.    I am looking forward to our annual 4th of July trip there so I can relax and hopefully enjoy the strawberries.       Because I missed my blog post for May, I didn't get a chance to write about the new rhubarb pie recipe I tried.    Verdict:  I still prefer my rhubarb straight up, no sour cream chaser.

Looking back over my blog, I found a post I wrote about rhubarb crisp that really took me back 9 years ago when my mother was dying.    It's worth a read if you haven't's a great recipe.  My Auntie Anna, who I wrote about in this post, passed away earlier this year.   She was my mother's oldest sister and now my Aunt Helen is the last Mourovic girl standing.   Here's a great picture I came across recently of my mom as a teenager in WV ....

My mother loved rhubarb and so do I!  Luckily, you can get rhubarb all summer so there is still time for me to make some crisp.     Happy spring and summer.....

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Raspberry Cheesecake Rum Chata Pudding Shots

Every summer, my favorite 4th of July activity in the Keweenaw is the Gay Parade in Gay Michigan, which is not to be missed.  Be sure to get to Gay early so you can partake in the Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary Bazaar and Rummage Sale where you can get hand crocheted dish towels, home preserved thimbleberry jam and other exotic flavors like fireweed jelly.   The fire department has a refreshment tent and raffle, and there are tours of the old Gay School House which is really neat.  The Gay Bar opens early for the event, and they even turn their whole parking lot into a bar, which pretty much makes the whole thing start to feel like New Orleans on Mardi Gras.   Last year, Andy road his bike from our place by Calumet Water Works to Gay and I met him there with the truck.   While I was waiting for him to arrive, I sat inside at the bar with the locals and noticed that the ladies were all raving about a featured special called "pudding shots".  I'm not the kind of person that would drink a pudding shot, but the Yooper ladies love them, but I filed the idea away in my mind for a potential tailgate party idea.

I'm also not the kind of person that would go on a bus trip to a casino, but anything is possible and yesterday, I found myself going along on one for a fundraiser,  I figured I needed to bring a dish to pass, so why not pudding shots?     A quick googling around showed rampant use of instant pudding, Bailey's Irish Cream and Cool Whip, but I decided to go a different path.  First, I am okay with using instant pudding mix, but I wanted my shots to be drinkable, so I ditched the Cool Whip.   Second, I wanted my shots to pack a punch, so vodka was going to be added.   Lastly, I wanted to find  recipe to use up some airplane size bottles I had of Rum Chata in the liquor cabinet.   Have you tried Rum Chata before?  It kind of reminds me of the milk left over in your cereal bowl after eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.   I like it better than Baileys but I am not a big fan of creamy liqueurs.   But I know lots of the ladies like it.   For example, everyone was drinking it at a scrapbooking weekend I once attended.   While touring the instant pudding shelf area at Meijer (which I never looked at before) I found they had cheesecake flavor!  Who knew?  So I got it. 

Raspberry Cheesecake Rum Chata Pudding Shots

1 box Jello Instant Pudding Cheesecake flavor
1 1/2 c. Rum Chata
1/2 c. Vodka
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Mix up everything except the raspberries in a bowl, and pour into condiment cups.  You can get these at GFS.  Top with 3 or 4 berries and chill.  These will not set up like pudding, they are drinkable.   

For tailgating (or a bus trip to a casino) I highly recommend transporting them in  the Pampered Chef Cool and Serve tray  I am always a sucker for Pampered Chef parties.  (like a scrapbooking party, they are also likely to feature Rum Chata!)  If you wanted to make these with less alcohol, I suppose you could sub in a cup of milk for a cup of the more potent potables, I guess. 

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Salad Trio with Roasted Cauliflower Soup

This weekend, I created lunch for about 80 women at my church's "Growing in God" retreat, which I enjoy doing every year.    The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to make a curried chicken salad and a vegetarian soup.   I always like going to the deli at Arbor Farms for inspiration.  They have an outstanding selection of salads to choose from, and sure enough, I saw a southwest inspired vegan red quinoa salad that looked interesting. Also, there can often be a myriad of dietary constraints when you get that many women together.  This year,  it didn't turn out that way, only one dairy free and one no nuts.   In year's past, I have had to work with vegan and gluten free too.  I like to serve the ladies salad for lunch, because one of the best things about this retreat is the fantastic food served.   Need to keep it light!  For my other salad, I wanted a fruit salad that was lightly sweet.     Since I was already serving curry in my chicken salad, I couldn't use my favorite curried cauliflower soup, but I still wanted to use cauliflower so I came up with a roasted cauliflower soup  seasoned with lots of garlic and onion.

Southwest Red Quinoa Salad
serves 12 as a side or 6 as a main dish

Quinoa Salad
1 1/2 cup dried red quinoa
1 15 oz can corn, drained
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onions, diced
2  jalapeño, seeded and sliced

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoon cumin
salt, to taste

Rinse quinoa and set aside. Bring 2 3/4 cups water to a boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until water has evaporated and quinoa is cooked. Transfer to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.  Allow to fully cool. 

Prepare dressing by adding all ingredients in a canning jar and shake until well combined.     After quinoa is cooled, add vegetables and dressing and mix well. 

Creamy Fruit Salad
serves 12 as a side

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar

2 Golden Delicious apples, diced
2 Red Delicious apples, diced
2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
2 cups green seedless grapes, halved
1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup chopped  toasted pecans

Combine dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until thoroughly mixed.   In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients and dressing to serve.

Curried Chicken Salad

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. kosher salt
1 t. pepper
1 large onion, unpeeled and cut in half
½ c. mayo
¼ c. hot mango chutney
2 T. curry powder
2 T. Zante currants
1 green onion, sliced
¼ c. toasted sliced almonds, toasted

In a small crock pot, add onion halves and chicken breasts and cover with water.   Add salt and pepper and cook on low for 3 hours.    Remove chicken, allow to cool and dice it.   Prepare dressing by combining mayo, chutney and curry powder in a small bowl.   Combine with chicken, onion and almonds.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
serves 8

2 heads cauliflower, sliced in 1/2 in slabs
3 T. olive oil
2 T. kosher salt
1 t. pepper
1 large onion, diced
3 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T Better than Bouillon vegetable stock base
5 c. water
1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
Croutons and parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 F.   On a baking sheet, drizzle cauliflower slabs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes until browned.   Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, soften onion in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes.   Add garlic and stir.   Add cauliflower, water and stock base and simmer for 30 minutes until cauliflower is really soft.   Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth.   Add heavy cream and blend until combined.  Serve soup garnished with croutons and parsley

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Pot Scrubbing Alternatives

I recently read a post online about a magical way to clean a scorched pan, and so I had to figure out if it would work or not.   My friend Paula, a chemist, said there was scientific merit for it, saying " The quat surfactants used as fabric softener have an affinity for the carbonized food particles. The amphoteric surfactant commonly used in most dish liquids attenuates the cationic quat."  Huh??? I'll have to trust her.  I've forgotten most of the chemistry I ever learned.  She is a smart lady!    I have tried the other two alternatives, baking soda and Bar Keepers Friend and have not been pleased with the results in the past, but thought I'd add them to the experiment.  I had more hope for Bar Keeper's Friend, because it's pH is 2.1 (which is fairly acidic) vs the mildly alkaline baking soda, which has a pH of about 9.   I was at Whole Foods the other day when a hipster dude gave me a sample of "alkaline water" which was supposed to do something magical when I drank it.   It's pH was about 8.1.   I am still waiting for the magic to happen. 

The subjects were my much abused sheet pans, I used them as the subject a few years ago when I myth busted  other popular internet pan cleaning theories.  I came to the conclusion that the only thing that really works is steel wool, which is always a solid choice, but I can't stand the way it feels in my hand.   I completely adore Norwex Spirinett  for scrubbing.    So I decided to use that as my scrubber just to see what works best. 

I made a paste out of the baking soda and the Bar Keepers friend using hot water and smeared it on. For the Dawn/dryer sheet one, I put a couple drops of dish soap and added hot water and the dryer sheet.   I set the timer for 1 hour....

After a minimal amount of scrubbing with the Spirinett, I think that the dryer sheet/dish soap is the clear winner.   That pan was the worst to start with!  Bar Keepers friend was okay, not great.   And baking soda just took way too much product to do the minimal.  My paste required 1/4 of a box for half the pan.     In the future, I will go with the dryer sheet plan and more elbow grease!

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Rooster's Famous Firecrackers

Originally developed at Roosters, a gourmet take-out, cookware  shop, and cooking school in Greensboro, North Carolina, food scientist and best-selling cookbook author Shirley Corriher wrote about this snack and I had to try it for myself.   Perfect for wine or a party, also nice with soup.  They are fantastic!  Make as spicy as you dare...

Rooster's Famous Firecrackers
1 sleeve saltines
1 teaspoon salt free seasoning  (I like Mrs Dash Extra Spicy
hot pepper flakes
10 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated fine 

Arrange a rack in the center and preheat oven to 475ºF.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum and arrange crackers (about 40) in rows so that crackers are touching each other. Sprinkle seasoning over crackers, then sprinkle with as many pepper flakes as you think you might like. Finally, top evenly with grated cheese. Bake for 1 minute only. Turn the oven off, don't open the door.  Leave in the oven overnight.

The next morning, crack them into snack size pieces

So delicious!  Perfect Super Bowl snack.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mrs Hintalla

Both of my children had "Life Skills" (it was called "Home Ec" in my day) class in Mill Creek Middle School with Mrs. Hintalla, who was one of my favorite teachers.   Right before she retired, she taught the Foods class at Dexter High School that my daughter Jane also took.  Pam was instrumental in another project that Jane and I worked in Girl Scouts: the Sullivan Memorial Garden at the school.   

Mrs. Hintalla was one of those teachers that everyone remembered.  My mother was an avid seamstress (now we would call her a"sewist") and a huge fabric hoarder.   When she died, I was lamenting all the fabric she left behind and Mrs. Hintalla said "I'll take it!"  Thrilled, I asked her how much she wanted, and she said all of it.  I am not sure she knew what she was getting into when I rolled up to the middle school with every inch of my Fusion filled with fabric.   All that was left was a place for me to sit and look out the windshield.    Her eyes grew wide when I informed her this was just the first load....I would bring more.   And I did.  Like my mother, I am also a sewist.   "Sewist" sounds so much better than "sewer".   I think sewing skill might be genetic because I can remember sewing since I was a small fry, but my sister can't do it at all.   Instead, she is a knitting pro, but she sure didn't get that from our mother.   Included in my mother's fabric stockpile, which took up a good portion of her basement,  was a yard of a pastel plaid I wanted to make into a skirt for my own first day of 7th grade.  My mother wouldn't let me use it because she was "saving it for a project".   Imagine my surprise when I found it 35 years later in her collection!  I sure hope some Dexter 7th grader got to make it into something.   Instead, I made a skirt of fabric that was printed with a denim patches pattern.   I wore a white T shirt with it, and a puka shell necklace.   It was very 1976. 

Mrs. Hintalla's class was also a big hit with my son Eddie.  He loved cooking and  he saved these 2 recipes they made in Life Skills class, and we made them at home later.  I still have no idea what the origin of "Ricketty Uncle" is.    Mrs. Hintalla always called her students by an honorific formal name, never just Eddie.   He was "Mr. Hodges"to her, which she shouted with enthusiasm down the hall with her big booming home ec teacher voice.  Eddie has grown up into a fine cook, and I like to think she was a big part of that.   I lost track of Pam after she retired, but she was one of Dexter's best!  So Eddie, I am posting these for you, Mr. Hodges!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Blog analytics and another popular recipe

So, it used to be how I got blog traffic was primarily through referrals.   If I wanted to get people to look at my blog, the best way I could do it would be to share links to it via email groups like Yahoo Groups, or I would ask other bloggers to list me on their "Blogs I Like" list.   Or, one of the best ways was to comment on someone else's blog post about whatever I was writing about, and link to my blog entry.

For example, let's talk pickled eggs.  Before the internet, my pickled egg recipe was written down on a piece of sorority stationery with my name on top of it.   People made copies of it and handed it around.   I met people that said "I have your pickled egg recipe" when they heard my name.   Then, when my blog started, I commented on this blogger's post about her pickled egg recipe that has pepperoncini in it (yuck).   I got a lot of referrals that way.   But now, most of my referrals are from social media....specifically fb and pinterest.  I don't really monetize my blog so I don't pay for search engine optimization, but that blogger shown above does...her blog is now a cheap looking advertising server and she fraternizes with the Pioneer Woman.   But yet, if you google "yooper pickled eggs" my recipe shows up second after hers in a post from the Milwaukee Journal.   Then, there is another lame recipe that includes dry spices (gross) then my recipe again on the alumni page.  Finally, there is mine. 

I'm not too sure many people read food blogs regularly anymore, but I still have lots of followers which is nice.  People don't comment as much as they used to on the blog, but I have started a facebook group that is fun.    So, what is my second most popular recipe on the blog? It's this one....for Olga's Kitchen Bread

Olga herself, making Olga Bread courtesy of the Olga's Kitchen website

Fun facts about my blog and pickled eggs

My blog's peak monthly readership was around 7,200 

One of the fun things about blog keeping is analytics.  My engineer brain loves to look at the data, and Google makes a great tool (Google Analytics) to do it.    Just looking at this chart makes me wonder what was going on in August, 2012 to make my blog peak in readership.  I think it is most likely that corresponds with some kind of national trend in food blogging.   I don't spend a lot of time or any money on trying to boost my reach,  like maximizing SEO (search engine optimization) or paid ads, etc.  It's just a hobby to me, but this hobby has taught me a lot about how it all works.   I'm just happy to have people read it. 

My most popular post, if you define "popular" as the page people most often land on that isn't my front door (i.e. my latest post) is this recipe for pickled eggs.   Why is this one the most popular, with over 22,000 sessions?   I'm not exactly sure.    I will have to study that one in depth later.    But do check out that recipe; it is definitely a keeper. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Even more food memoirs

Are We Having Any Fun Yet?: The Cooking & Partying Handbook by Sammy Hagar.   I'm not a huge Sammy Hagar fan, but this book is a fun read.  Great recipes, too.  It explains his rock career from Montrose to Van Halen to Cabo Wabo, which I didn't really know but found it a great read.  The man loves food much more than he loves Eddie Van Halen.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.  given my aversion to the idea of ever going back to NYC, I will probably never visit her restaurant, but I loved her coming of age through food story.  Speaking of New York, there also is....

Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin by Kenny Shopshin and Carolynn Carreno   Described as "most profound and profane cookbook you’ll ever read" and that is true.  I loved everything about this book and would be afraid to go to his place, but he died last fall, so maybe  he wouldn't yell at me. So maybe I could go to NYC again.

After all that big city about.....

The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook by Christopher Kimball.  This book is not anything like Cooks Illustrated or Milk Street, but reads like his old prose he used to write in his letters from Vermont.   

Food Memoirs, Part 2

Here are more food memoirs I have read and loved:

Toast : The Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater.   He is not a celebrity chef, but has written a food column for over 25 years in the Guardian's Observer.  His memoir describes daily life in 1960s suburban England of his youth. 

Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover's Courtship, with Recipes by Amanda Hesser.   Longtime food writer for NYT, founder of Food52, I have always appreciated her writing style.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang.   A food memoir so good it was made into a TV show.  (which I have never watched, I don't watch much TV) which he wasn't thrilled about.  Excellent edgy writing about immigrants assimulating into American life.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes from an American Family by Kathleen Flinn.   I enjoyed this memoir of her quirky family’s culinary adventures in the Midwest was named a 2015 Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. 

There are many more!  Just writing this down makes me find more of them that I want to read.   What are your favorites?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Food Memoirs

I love reading food memoirs as much as I love reading cookbooks.   Here are some that I have loved:

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!  But sray away from her second book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, which was just awful.  

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.  I've read pretty much everything she ever wrote in her short life.  

Speaking of Gourmet, I loved everything nonfictionRuth 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.   Also good is Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

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.

Everyone that has ever fantasized about working in a restaurant should ready  Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. 

Some more to come! 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Muskallonge Lake Camping Again....and Mom's Tasty Flank Steak

This year, we have planned our annual camping trip with our neighbors Ann and Bill at Muskallonge Lake State Park, which is near Grand Marais in the eastern upper peninsula.    It's a great park - we stayed there almost 9 years ago when we had our pop up camper with the kids.     Grand Marais, if you have never been, is a funky little town, best known as a hangout for Jim Harrison.   His soul brother Ernest Hemingway liked the area, he wrote the short story Big Two Hearted River (although in actuality he set the story in Seney, MI but he liked the name better).   And then there is the best beer in America, Bell's Two Hearted.   It's a great campground, but I hope we have better weather this trip.

Last time we were there, I made this recipe in the dutch oven.  It is a favorite in our house.   Serve it over noodles.   Delicious!

Mom's Tasty Flank Steak

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice - bottled is fine for this recipe
1 T. thyme
3 green onions, sliced
A big flank steak

Place marinade ingredients in a plastic bag, and add steak. Freeze in marinade, and pack it in your cooler. (if you are making this at home, marinate it in the fridge overnight) At camp, put the beef and marinade in a 12 inch dutch oven with 10 coals on the bottom, 14 on top for about 30 minutes. (at home, broil it in a pan with the marinade until desired doneness) Serve with noodles. Yummy!

Time to do it again! Red Beans and Rice

My blogiversary is coming up.....on Jan. 16, my blog will be 12 years old.   I set a goal to have 600 published posts and I am really going to have to step up my game.....2 posts every day until then.   That means one before work, and one after work......better get moving! 
I have been looking over my blog lately as I have started putting a book proposal together to shop out to publishers.   It's been a very slow go, but one of the best things about it is finding recipes I created that I liked so much, but then never made again.   Here is one I found.... Busy Woman's Red Beans and Rice.   I wrote this recipe in 2011, and my kids were young teenagers back then.   That meant my whole life was driving them places and volunteering....lots and lots of volunteering.

Looking back on that time, I really appreciate my empty nest lifestyle.  Of course, Anne Taintor has the perfect magnet for this, too!

So, I need to try this red beans and rice recipe again.  I only made it once, and beans are very WW friendly. Rice, not so much, but I will skimp on that. I'll put it on my list for this week.   Not sure I have any kidney beans in the larder, though.  Time to go check! Happy Sunday