Baking Angels

My dad was a professional baker, as was his dad before him. My brother baked with Dad from the time he was old enough to hold a rolling pin in his chubby little toddler hands. He has worked in the baking industry his entire life, and still does. My sister Jen says she can’t bake a lick, though I’m not entirely sure that is true. My sister Bec is the one in our family who we count on when we want baked items at our family gatherings. Bundt cakes and brownies are her specialties. Ask Bill, who enjoys the fruits of her labors.

As for me, I absolutely LOVE to bake. However, for the most part, I stink at it. There you have it. My name’s Kris, and I’m a Horrible-Baker-Who-Should-Be-Better-Because-My-Dad-Owned-A-Bakery. Maybe there’s a support group.

So, now that I’ve given you background, let me tell you a story.

The other day I got a hankering for biscotti. You know, those hard cookies that you dunk in coffee or tea, or if you’re in Italy, maybe Vino Santo after a wonderful dinner al fresco. My favorite biscotti recipe comes from Giada di Laurentis, but they contain pistachios (yum) and dried cherries or cranberries. Though I shouldn’t eat the dried fruit, I could possibly let that slide; however, the pistachios are a firm no-go on my low fiber diet, no matter how delicious they are.

So I got the notion to bake chocolate biscotti. I knew Bill would be happy, and I was confident I could find a recipe for chocolate biscotti without nuts. And so I did, Double Chocolate Biscotti from Once Upon a Chef blog.

Biscotti are not terribly hard to make. The trick is that you mix the dough, form it into a log, and bake it for a half hour or so. You then remove the baked dough from the oven and slice them into the familiar biscotti shape. Then, bake them again for 10 minutes or so, until they sort of dry out and become hard.

The reason I’m a sort of hit-or-miss baker is because I’m sloppy and apparently quite forgetful. I’ve always been sloppy; I grow more and more forgetful as I grow older.

So, using my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer, I mixed the ingredients, all of which, surprisingly, were in my pantry. I took the sticky dough and formed it into two carefully shaped logs. I was about to put them in the preheated oven when the guardian angel in charge of food preparation landed on my shoulder and said, “You forgot to put in the chocolate chips, Stupid.” Who knew angels used such hurtful language?

So here was my conundrum. The logs were beautiful, glistening with chocolaty goodness. As I saw it, these were my two choices: 1) Dismantle the logs and put the dough back in the Kitchen Aid mixer, add the chocolate chips, and re-form into new logs; or 2) Change the name from Double Chocolate Biscotti to simply Chocolate Biscotti and don’t do a damn thing…..

As you will see from the photo, I chose the former solution. I just could picture Bill’s face when he bit into a soft chocolate chip in his cookie. These are doubly chocolaty delicious, he was bound to say…..

Double Chocolate Biscotti

Ingredients
1-3/4 c. plus 2 T flour, measured carefully
¼ c. plus 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
¾ t. salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
¾ c. plus 2 T granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Process
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg and scraping bowl with a spatula. Add the vanilla. Then add the dry ingredients and chocolate chips and mix on low speed until just combined.

Dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the sticky dough out onto the work surface and dust the top of the dough to make it workable. Shape the dough into a ball and cut in half. Form each half into a log, and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Shape into longer logs about ¾ in. high and 2 in. wide. Allow enough space for the logs to spread a bit while they bake.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until firm to the touch. Let the biscotti logs cool on the pan for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove logs onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs on the diagonal into ¾ in. slices. Don’t worry if they crumble a bit.  Put the cookies back onto the cookie sheet on their sides (cut sides down), and place back in the oven for 10 minutes to dry and harden. Cool on the pan for a few minutes; then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.

Little House on the Prairie

I’m an early riser. It’s unheard of for me to sleep until 7; it’s not uncommon for me to get up around 5:30. However, yesterday morning, I awoke bright and early at 4:45, and talked myself into staying in bed until 5, when I finally heard the birds awakening.

I posted my blog and then went downstairs to fix coffee and open the windows to let in the cool morning air. I was settling down for my first cup of coffee when I suddenly had a hankering for a crumb-topped muffin. I started trying to figure out where I could buy one, and then reminded myself that I have all of the necessary ingredients to make them myself.

Which is what I proceeded to do. I preheated the oven to the necessary temperature, and was just putting the crumbly topping onto my muffins when suddenly there was a click and the sound of electronic equipment sighing, and the house went dark and silent.

The electricity had gone off.

Since Bill has been doing demolition and rebuilding in the family room, it certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he might have done something that resulted in our house losing electricity. But since he was upstairs (I had just heard the sound of him walking around and getting ready to come downstairs) I gave him a pass, figuring that the entire neighborhood was probably without power.

Thankfully, it was almost 6 by this time, and the rooms were sufficiently light, if really, really quiet.  Nevertheless, I suddenly felt like Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. Except I wasn’t worried about angry Indians or rabid wolves attacking me.

I called my next-door neighbor to confirm that it was the entire neighborhood that was part of the powerless prairie. Doesn’t it just feel weird, she asked me. And it did. She had called the power company and was told that the power would be back on by 9:30 at the latest.

The first thing I did upon hanging up was to save the coffee by putting it in a thermos pot. (That’s kind of Little House on the Prairie-ish, don’t you think?) But if you have coffee, you can handle almost everything. This theory was born out when I heard a knock on my door a bit later and our neighbor from across the street had awakened to no electricity. And I don’t even have a cup of coffee, she whined. Our coffee was gone by that time, so I commiserated and she returned to her powerless house empty-handed.

You don’t really understand just how much we rely upon electricity. Bill was forced to read the junk notices we had put into our recycling bin the night before for entertainment since he reads all his news from the internet on his iPad. I kept promising things I couldn’t actually produce. How about a piece of toast with peanut butter, I asked. Except then I realized my toaster won’t work. Maybe I could drive over and get some bagels for breakfast, I said. Except then I remembered that our garage door is electric.

Actually, Bill was able to release some sort of lever or other and get our garage door to open manually, which was good because he had someplace he had to be at 8 o’clock. Pa Ingalls would have just taken the donkey cart. Even though I had no place to go, it made me feel better. At least I could go get some toilet paper if necessary. One always feels the need to buy toilet paper in an emergency. That’s why it’s the first thing to go when blizzard-shopping.

The electricity finally popped back on around 9:15. The first thing I did was to preheat my oven once again and bake some crumb muffins. They were even better for having to wait. And I again appreciated my 21st century conveniences.

Crumb Cake Muffins

Ingredients
1-1/2 c. flour
½ c. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. salt
¾ c. milk
1/3 c. canola oil
2 eggs

Crumb Topping
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. salt
½ c. butter, melted
1-1/2 c. flour

Process
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners, or spray with cooking spray.

Make crumb topping: Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Slowly pour in melted butter and mix. Add flour and stir until moist. Spread on plate or parchment paper to dry.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl or measuring cup, mix milk, canola oil, and egg. Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and stir until moist.

Fill muffin tins and top with crumb topping. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Noodles

A couple of weeks ago when our family was visiting us in AZ, we were eating at our favorite pizza restaurant here in the Valley of the Sun. As we ate, I asked a variation of the age-old question: If you were eating your very last meal, what would you have?

I learned several interesting things from that question. The first thing I learned is that if you’re going to try to ascertain the answer to that question from an 11-year-old boy, you’d better phrase the question carefully. I unfortunately worded it as such: Hey Alastair, if you were on death row and they were bringing in your last meal, what would you have ordered? Okay, okay; I admit that perhaps you shouldn’t ask a child any questions that relate to Death Row. Lesson learned. Because Alastair – who loves good food – couldn’t be pinned down to the food part and instead concentrated fully on the Death Row part. Despite my pressing him further and further, his answers continued to be along the lines of a cake with a file in it, or a piece of sausage in the shape of a key.

But the other interesting piece of information I learned, particularly once I rephrased the question to be if you were on a desert island and could only eat one thing, what would it be?, was that my daughter-in-law Jll chose lasagna.

I thought about that conversation the other night when I cooked dinner for my sister Jen – who had arrived that day for a week’s visit – and her daughter Maggie and the family. I had texted the dinner invitation to Maggie earlier in the day, and didn’t know technology could work that fast when her response of YES! came almost before I set down my phone. Such is the life of a mother of two, including a very busy 3-year-old, as she prepares for the arrival of her own mother.  I had some of my red sauce in the freezer, so making lasagna was going to be simple. Or at least as simple as making lasagna can be.

As we sat and ate our lasagna, Caesar salad, and French bread, we learned that Maggie’s husband Mark would also choose lasagna as his last meal. Funny, that. I like lasagna, but who would choose lasagna when you could choose a wonderfully dry and ice-cold Tanqueray martini, a perfectly-cooked bone-in ribeye steak with a dollop of herb and garlic butter, a crisp salad with a mixture of homemade Roquefort cheese dressing and the homemade Italian dressing made by my favorite childhood restaurant Husker House, and crème brulee with that crackly burnt-sugar topping?

As a result of Mark’s proclamation, much of our conversation at dinner that night revolved around making lasagna. I created a bit of a controversy when I admitted that while I liked lasagna, I found it a pain in the booty to make.

Maggie was astounded. She doesn’t share my sentiment. But let me be clear. The most troublesome thing for me when it comes to lasagna is the noodles. Cooking lasagna noodles is flat-out messy. Dripping water, noodles splashing back into the cooking water as you try to retrieve them, noodles sticking together. All-around messiness.

Maggie, however, uses the lasagna noodles that cook as your lasagna bakes. I’m all for convenience, but I fear that any kind of pasta that you put uncooked into a dish soaks up too much of the liquid as it cooks. So despite the ease, I continue to cook my noodles before I begin the layering process.

I will admit that I like my lasagna very much. I use a meat sauce from my favorite Italian chef, Lidia Bastianich. It involves using pork neck bones, which result in the most flavorful sauce imaginable. Of course, no matter how careful I am, a few little bones will make it into the sauce. But the best part of using neck bones is that after a couple of hours, you remove them to cool. I, however, begin nibbling on them almost immediately, always burning my fingers in the process. Lidia’s sauce also involves ground pork and ground beef, so the flavor is delightful. Don’t tell Lidia, but sometimes I substitute Italian sausage for the ground pork. The sauce cooks for a couple of hours, making the house smell like an Italian home on Sunday. It’s pure heaven.

Here is a link to Lidia’s sauce, though it doesn’t come from her website. As for the lasagna, just like dressing for Colorado springtime weather, it’s all about layering.

Include as many layers as your pan will hold, and then eventually this happens…..

And maybe that is worth a last meal.

Heads or Tails

As the temperatures hovered dangerously close to 80 degrees these past few days in AZ, you would think I would be focusing on grilling or making fancy salads. Nope. Oddly, braising is what sounds good. Maybe it’s a fortuitous that St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon as I can satisfy some of my braising needs by cooking a corned beef.

My mother was a traditional cook, at least during the years when I was growing up, and she did a lot of braising. I remember eating beef pot roasts and pork roasts and spare ribs that she would cook slowly in the oven until they were tender. I remember beef stews and green beans made with ham hocks and vegetable soups made with beef shanks.

But what I was recalling as of late was a stew that she made occasionally that featured oxtails. Little pieces of beef that came – not shockingly – from the tails of a cow. I’m guessing probably not necessarily an ox, but at least some sort of beef. Oxtails probably stemmed from the mentality that was common among people who grow up on farms: you don’t waste any part of the animal.

Mom didn’t necessarily take this philosophy to heart, as I don’t remember her ever serving us, well, heart. At least not beef heart. I remember battling my brother and sisters for the chicken heart, that teeny-tiny, chewy organ that comes in the little sack that frequently is shoved inside a chicken, along with a liver or two, a few gizzards, and the neck. Since chickens, as most animals, only have one heart (earthworms have five hearts, but I wouldn’t want to eat a single one of them), it was a valuable commodity. Livers were first runner up, and we happily gave Dad the gizzards.

I don’t have my mom’s recipe for Oxtail Stew, but I sure remember the meal. I recall that they varied in size but I always seemed to get the small ones. But mostly I remember that they were extremely slippery. I loved them. I joyfully picked up the scalding little devils with my fingers and gnawed until I got most of the meat, not necessarily an easy task, but I have always been good at getting meat from a bone. I think I was a hyena in a former life.

I decided to make Oxtail Stew.

Since I didn’t have my mother’s recipe, I did what any normal 21st century cook would do: I went to Pinterest.  There, I found a yummy-sounding recipe for oxtail stew cooked in a slow cooker. That sounded spot-on to me, so I invited my brother Dave and my sister Bec to dinner where we could eat with our fingers and reminisce about Mom. I warned Bill (who had never eaten oxtails) that it was likely that he was going to have to swallow his pride and eat with his fingers, something he is loath to do unless it’s a pizza.

But first I needed to find oxtails. None at Basha’s. None at Fry’s. AJ’s Fine Foods took 15 rings before they answered the telephone and then, upon my request for their meat department, sent me to a black hole which produced no meat department. Cross them off my list, then and forever, no matter how fine their food is.

However, when you’re on the hunt for any unusual cut of meat or any unfamiliar vegetable, your best bet is to hit the Mexican markets and/or the Asian markets. Bill and I set off on our adventure, where our intent was to hit the Mexican market first and if that produced no results, go a bit further into the Asian part of Mesa. We lucked out on our first try and found delicious-looking oxtails at Los Altos Ranch Market…..

uncooked-oxtails-los-altos-market-2-17

Those oxtails eventually became this……

oxtails

After eight hours in a slow cooker, the meat was indescribably tender and tasty, and the broth was rich and packed with flavor. I served the stew over mashed potatoes, and there was none left at the end of the meal. My assessment? I was sad that they were so tender that they didn’t provide my desire for slipperiness. However, my brother (looking carefully around for Mom’s ghost bearing some sort of weapon) said he thought mine were better than Mom’s. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Here’s the recipe…..

Slow Cooker Oxtail Stew

Ingredients
2 – 3 lbs. oxtails
2 T. flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ lb. mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
½ c. red wine
1-1/2 c. beef broth or stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 T. tomato paste

Process
Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Remove to a plate, and crumble.

Coat oxtails in the seasoned flour, and cook in the bacon grease until brown on all sides. Cook only a few at a time to aid in browning.

Place vegetables, wine, stock, bay leaf, thyme, and tomato paste into slow-cooker. Add the bacon and the oxtails to the vegetables.  Cover with lid and cook for 8 hours or until oxtails are tender.

Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

The Big Easy

I was fairly untraveled as a child and even as a young adult. Though my family took a vacation each year, we almost always went to Colorado, and mostly to Estes Park. I wouldn’t change a thing about our vacations, but suffice it to say that I was close to 20 before I ever boarded an airplane.

Back in those days, flyers dressed up for the trip, wearing a good dress or suit. The idea of blue jeans or – heaven forbid – sweat pants on a flight was absolutely unthinkable. Flight attendants – aw, heck, we can call them stewardesses because they were absolutely always young women — wore business attire, shoes with modest heels, and hats.

I remember being about 21 or 22 years old, and yearning to visit exactly three places before I died. Today we would call them my bucket list. So my bucket list cities were New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

But our recent Mardis Gras party got me thinking about New Orleans, and recalling all of my visits to that interesting city. And it was the first of my three dream bucket list cities that I was able to visit. I traveled with a woman I scarcely knew, familiar with her only because she taught my brother and sister at Leadville High School. Her name was Lily, and despite the fact that I traveled 1,300 miles with her and lived in the same hotel room for probably close to a week, I recall very little else about her. Isn’t that funny? But what I do recall is that she wasn’t an ax murderer (as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get hacked to pieces) and we had a good time together. And then never did a single thing together again.

mi0002859504We didn’t have a lot of money, so I’m certain we didn’t go to any fancy restaurants, though I’m afraid I also couldn’t tell you what restaurants we did visit. I remember that we went to Café du Monde and had beignets and café au lait and stayed in a nice hotel near the action. Other than that, the single thing I remember is that we went to a jazz show in the French Quarter and watched musician Al Hirt play from front row seats. Non-vocal jazz never really being a favorite musical genre of mine, I’m sure I must have heard of him from my dad. At the end of the show, he came down from the stage and shook the hands of a few people, INCLUDING MINE. Having not met many famous people at that time in my life, I was thrilled.

The other two times that I have visited New Orleans, Bill has been my traveling companion. The first time he and I visited, I remember being conned by an expert con artist, who bet me $10 that he could tell me where I got my shoes, and I bit. The answer, of course, was on my feet. Lesson learned.

During that trip we dined at Commander’s Palace, where Bill ate what to this day he proclaims was the best dessert he’s ever eaten (and the man knows desserts) – Commander’s Bread Pudding Souffle. We also tried Muffuletta sandwiches at Central Grocery, where they were created. Muffulettas are sandwiches made from salami, ham, mortadella, cheese and a delicious olive spread.

And, of course, beignets at Café du Monde.

The second time we visited, we ate brunch at Commander’s Palace, where we ate what I would call the best dessert I’ve ever eaten – Bananas Foster. Oh my.

But just as my primary memory of my first visit to New Orleans is seeing Al Hirt, my primary memory of that visit is ducking into a hole-in-the-wall place where we had the most delicious oysters on the half shell that I have ever eaten. The guy shucking the oysters was like a caricature of a guy shucking oysters. He had been a so-called cut man for boxers in his younger days, and as he told Bill story after story, he kept shucking oysters. He shucked way more than the dozen we had ordered, but didn’t charge us a penny more.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been to all three of the cities that I dreamed of as a young woman. Interestingly, though I enjoyed them all, out of the three, I would say that only New York City is someplace I could return to again and again, and have. I enjoyed San Francisco and certainly found New Orleans interesting and the food amazing, but neither are places that I yearn to revisit.

The sound you just heard is that of my sister Bec fainting.

But as a nod to New Orleans, here is the recipe for the Hot Crab Dip that I contributed to Sunday’s festivities…..

crab-dip

Hot Crab Dip

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
1 c. chopped green peppers
1 T. minced garlic
1-1/2 t. salt, divided
1 T. Cajun seasoning
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayonnaise
¼ c. fresh parsley
2 green onions, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
3 6-oz cans crab meat
½ c. Ritz crackers, crushed
2 T. butter, melted

Process
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, 1 t. salt, and Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the cream cheese, mayo, parsley, green onions, lemon juice, and remaining salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.  Fold in vegetables and crabmeat and place in an oven-safe dish.

Mix cracker crumbs with butter, and spread on top of the dip. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crackers are browned.

Childhood Treats

When I was growing up, I was in somewhat of the minority among my friends as my mother had a job outside the home. It’s true that she wasn’t someone’s secretary or didn’t sell shoes at Monkey Ward’s (though that was the job she DID have when she met my father). But once my dad bought the bakery from my grandfather (and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how old I was when that transpired), she helped my dad run the business. Dad ran the back end (which included the baking) and handled the finances; she ran the front end and handled the staff. At least most of them.

Bill’s mom was a full-time homemaker, and so Bill talks about her fixing lunch every day for himself and his siblings. I don’t think she fixed anything fancy – maybe a turkey sandwich or a sandwich made from what he proclaims was the BEST egg salad ever known to man. And he always adds that she peeled the skin from her tomatoes and cut the celery really fine. For years, I thought that Wilma was trying to be fancy like Martha Stewart who probably not only peels her tomatoes, but likely turns them into rosettes. Eventually it occurred to me that she suffered from the same stomach ailments as I, and probably peeled her tomatoes for the same reason I peel mine – to avoid the fiber.

Anyway, as I try to recall my youthful years (not an easy task because I can’t even recall what’s in the Tupperware bowl that I put in my refrigerator last night), I’m certain that there was a time when Mom was home with us kids most of the time. But nearly all of my memories are of the times when we were old enough to stay alone and make our own lunches.

As I pondered this reality, I began wondering just what it was that we made for our lunches. My siblings might correct me, but I recall a lot of bologna or salami sandwiches on Dad’s yummy white bread, and opening many cans of Campbell’s soup or Chef Boyardee’s spaghetti or ravioli. Spaghettios had not yet been invented, but let me tell you, once those made an appearance, they were my very favorite lunch. That lasted until — well, frankly, I still secretly love spaghettios. Hold the little weinies and the meatballs. And don’t even try to give me the ABCs. I like the tiny little circular pieces of pasta.

As for Campbell’s soup, my very favorite was Bean and Bacon, but running a close second was Chicken with Stars. There was just something about those teeny tiny little stars that brought Chicken with Stars soup a notch up from regular Chicken Noodle soup.

A year or so ago, I ran across an Italian deli that sold little circular pasta called annelletti. Well, I immediately purchased the pasta, thinking that I would certainly be able to find a recipe to make spaghettios from scratch. I did, indeed, find such a recipe, and then scarcely gave it another thought. Every once in a while I would come across the pasta in my pantry and think, “I should make spaghettios,” but didn’t. The pasta moved from AZ to Colorado, and then moved back to AZ, still unopened.

In the meantime, I was recently at Superstition Ranch Market, a store at which I shop solely because they have the Stewart’s Diet Orange Cream sodas that I love. Remember this post? In addition to Stewart’s sodas, they also have a fairly acceptable selection of Italian products, including pastas. What do you think I found? Pasta shaped like little stars, called stelline.

Which made me think, “I can make homemade Chicken with Stars soup!” And which then inspired me to take out the the well-travelled annelletti and make homemade Spaghettios as well.

pasta-collage

I made the Chicken with Stars first, and later that week I made the Spaghettios.

The result?

The soup was a home run. The recipe, as you can see, is basically a regular recipe for chicken noodle soup, but uses the stelline in place of noodles. As for the Spaghettios, I was sorely disappointed, and here’s the reason why: Chef Boyardee’s Spaghettios are sweeter, which is why kids (and I) like them. I tried adding more sugar, but it just didn’t taste the same. If I’m going to have Spaghettios that don’t taste like the Chef’s, I would just as soon not have my base be tomato sauce, but instead, make a good red sauce of my own.

Here are the recipes….

chicken-stars-soup

Chicken with Stars Soup

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1-1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
8 c. chicken stock
2 c. chopped cooked chicken
2 bay leaves
½ t. dried rosemary
½ salt
½ t. dried thyme
½ t. black pepper
1 c. dried stelline (or other small pasta)
Process
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock, chicken, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, thyme, and pepper, and stir to combine.

Bring mixture to a simmer, the reduce heat to medium and stir in the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. Season with additional salt if necessary.

db052469-7b8d-43e2-b512-9f4dd89fdc89

Homemade Spaghettios

Ingredients
15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 T. milk
½ t. onion powder
½ t. garlic powder
¾ t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. uncooked star-shaped pasta, or other small pasta

Process
In a small saucepan, mix ingredients (except for pasta) and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook on low until the butter melts completely. Meanwhile, cook pasta per instructions until al dente (or to your liking, remembering that the pasta will soften up more as it absorbs the liquid). Drain pasta and combine with sauce.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Potato, Potahto

In the universe of unfairness, hovering right there near the top of the list is the fact that potato salad isn’t low in calories.

That injustice is right up there with the fact that I am only 5 feet, 2 inches, thereby being six inches too short for my weight; that Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t going to do a total remodel of my house including, but not limited to, knocking down walls and installing a kitchen island and shiplap; that I don’t own a private jet that would take me on weekend excursions to Paris or Hawaii or to visit my grandchildren; or that I have 128 gigabytes of memory on my iPad Air, and not only will I never use that many gigabytes of memory, I don’t even know what a gigabyte is.

But potato salad. That’s the one that really hurts.

I mentioned yesterday that Bec made her delicious potato salad for Sunday’s Super Bowl party. It’s true that I had a spoonful of the potato salad with my burger. But anyone who has entertained a group of people – particularly if you’ve entertained a group of people after drinking two Bloody Mary’s – knows that you don’t really taste what you’re eating when you’re trying to figure out at the same time if there are enough brownies to feed everyone, and deciding to rely on the Jesus-And-The-Loaves-And-Fishes miracle.  That worked, by the way. The 9×9 pan of brownies not only fed everyone who wanted one, but there were 12 baskets to spare. Well, actually, three small brownies. Bec, by the way, also made the brownies. I really didn’t do anything except call it my party.

Yesterday at lunchtime, I scooped me up a spoonful of the potato salad that I had dutifully packaged up for Bec to take home but forgot to send with her (I’m blaming the Bloody Marys, though by the time she left, all that was left of the Bloodys was a bit of tomato juice in the corner of my mouth and the smell of the celery and bacon on my breath). My first bite confirmed what I already suspected: the potato salad was sublime. Because as good as potato salad is the first day, the second day is even better. So one scoop soon became two, and with it came the sad realization that I wasn’t going to lose weight by eating the entire remaining potato salad, even inasmuch as I would certainly have been ABLE to eat the whole bowl. You’ve heard of the grapefruit diet and the leek soup diet and the vinegar diet. You’ve never heard of the potato salad diet. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EXIST, even in the minds of the most creative weight loss diet book authors.

Many years ago, I came across a recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine. I know. Like I actually ever read Bon Appetit. I must have been in the fancy waiting room of the place where I get my mammogram.  But, whatever. The recipe was for Roseanne Cash’s Potato Salad. Normally, I don’t think a potato salad recipe would catch my attention, as I think on the rare occasions that I ever made potato salad, I would have used my mother’s recipe. Mostly I think I let someone else bring the potato salad. But this one caught my eye because it contained diced-up dill pickles. Though this might not be an exceptionally rare ingredient for potato salad, in my world, it was. Because Mom’s potato salad had no pickles, dill or otherwise.

So I tore out the recipe, creating a big hole in the page where the next reader was about to learn the secret ingredient in Emeril Lagasse’s Banana Cream Pie.

Sometime (literally, several years) later, Bec was visiting us in Denver and had occasion to make potato salad. “I have a really good recipe,” she said. “Oh, I have a better recipe than yours,” I challenged her. “Nope, I’m sure mine is better,” she stated firmly, probably making a mental note to bring up my obstinance during the airing of grievances at our next Festivus celebration.

“Mine is from Roseanne Cash!” I said with great jubilation.

“Seriously?” she said. “So is mine.”

Further proof, don’t you know, that great minds think alike.

And just so that I don’t leave you all hanging, here is the recipe for potato salad….

potato-salad-2

Bec, Kris, and Roseanne Cash’s Potato Salad

Ingredients
3 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-in pieces
8 dill pickle spears, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
¼ c. mayo
2 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Process
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well and cool. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Stir in dill pickles, celery, onion, eggs, mayo, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper.

Can (and frankly, SHOULD) be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature one hour before serving.