Cry Over Curdled Milk

For a brief period of time, I tried to write a cooking blog. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before, maybe six or seven hundred times. I’m sure that I always added that it didn’t take me long to realize that 1) my cooking blog was competing against about a million other cooking blogs; and 2) I am really not an exceptional cook.

Here’s where I am supposed to say that despite my only being an average cook, I LOVE TO COOK. There was a time when I would have said that and would have been speaking the truth. Now I have to be completely honest and tell you that cooking is only fun some of the time. But the rest of the time, it’s just Bill and me, and he would prefer a sandwich to any kind of meal any day of the week. Unless, of course, I am frying a chicken. Then he’s all in. But have you ever fried a chicken? Enough said.

What I’m getting at is that it really isn’t that much fun to cook for only two people. And that’s why very often no matter how committed I am to eating at home, sometime around 4 o’clock I realize I don’t want to make that Chicken Florentine, or whatever it is I have planned. And so I begin making plans on where we can dine out. Sigh.

One way to combat this troubling phenomenon is to use a crock pot, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post. Because at 10 o’clock in the morning, I am still on the cooking-at-home bandwagon. And even if my Crock Pot Chicken Florentine doesn’t sound good anymore at 6 o’clock, I am cheap enough that I won’t throw it away and we will begrudgingly eat it.

This is the point where I should share a Chicken Florentine recipe. Like I would really make chicken Florentine. Ha.

But lately I have been in the mood to try making a few unusal things at home. I’m considering oxtail stew. I’ve looked up recipes for pierogis. I keep saying I’m going to try and make pho from scratch.

But I decided to start small, because a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese came across my desktop, something from the Pioneer Woman (who isn’t a real pioneer woman at all because real pioneer women churned butter and baked bread and pounded the dust from rugs. They didn’t make ricotta cheese.)

But I did. Because it looked very easy. So easy, in fact, that I didn’t even study the recipe very carefully. I just saw the words I like a four-to-one ratio when it comes to my milk and cream.

And without thinking much about it, I poured in four cups of cream and one cup of milk (because who wouldn’t want more cream than milk?), brought it to a boil, removed it from the heat, added the salt and the lemon juice, and waited for it to commence curdling. And waited. And waited some more. And then began cussing and waiting. Something I’ll bet the Pioneer Woman doesn’t do.

But it never curdled. And I began chastising myself. You are a terrible cook, I said to myself. You can’t even curdle milk properly unless you’re trying NOT to curdle it in which case it would probably CURDLE. And then I dumped it down the drain.

(While my cooking skills are questionable, I am VERY good at being hard on myself.)

At some point later in the morning, I took another gander at the recipe for making ricotta cheese. This time I actually READ the recipe from beginning to end. Oh-oh. The ratio is in fact four-to-one, but it is four cups of MILK to one cup of CREAM. Oops.

So, having inherited the stubbornness of both my mother and my father, I went to the store and bought more milk and cream, bringing the total cost to my two cups of ricotta cheese to about $15. But this time, it worked. The milk mixture curdled, and I had myself some fresh, homemade ricotta cheese….

ricotta

Which I used in my baked ziti that I made for my sister Bec’s birthday dinner last night, along with red sauce made from scratch by my sister-in-law Sami, who included – wait for it – the leftover prime rib from a recent meal. Let’s just say, as long as I have a great deal of help from others, maybe I CAN cook…..

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients
1 c. heavy cream
4 c. whole milk
½ t. salt
2 T. white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Process
Line a strainer with a couple layers of damp paper towel or cheesecloth, and set aside in a large bowl.

In a large pan, mix cream, milk and salt. Bring liquid to a boil over medium high hieat, and remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Let mixture sit for a few minutes, and then pour into the strainer lined with the paper towel or cheesecloth. Let it drain until it is as dry as you want it, at least 20 minutes.

Makes approximately 2 cups of cheese.

Well, That’s a Crock

We live in a fairly roomy house in Denver. Despite the fact that it was built in the 1970s when often homes lacked a lot of places to keep excess things (because frankly, back then people didn’t really have excess things like they do now), there is considerable storage space. The house has large closets, lots of cupboards, a fair amount of countertop space, roomy cabinets, a pantry, an attic, and lots more storage in the basement.

Lots of storage space is a blessing and a curse, at least for me. I am the queen of if there is space, it will be filled.  I have so much storage that is out of sight, i.e., in the basement, and that’s where I keep things like the popover pan I’ve used only once, the French bread pan I’ve used only once, the wicker dumpling steamer that I have used only once (are you sensing a pattern?), and the punch bowl that I have used on several occasions but will almost certainly never use again. There’s a Fry Daddy, a Seal-a-Meal, two ice cream makers, an electric wok, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Well, not that last thing. But lots and lots of stuff.

Our house here in AZ is a mere 1,300 square feet in which there are often three adults residing. We have a small kitchen with a smattering of counter space. There is a small pantry, and a few below-counter cabinets and above-counter cupboards. Space is at a premium. Bill has installed a few cupboards in the garage.

Which (finally) brings me to the point of this post: Crock Pots.

I have long been a fan of crock pots. For working people, I think they are life savers. If you can get yourself organized either early in the morning or the night before and get ingredients into a crock pot, you have dinner waiting for you when you get home.

I, of course, am not a working person. I could spend the entire day cooking if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But I still am a big fan of slow cookers, primarily because if I put food in the slow cooker at 10 o’clock in the morning, I will not talk myself out of cooking and into going out to eat at a restaurant at 6 o’clock.

At some point after we bought this house and Bill and I started spending entire winters here, I decided I needed to get a new crock pot. My existing crock pot was literally from the 1970s, and though it worked just fine, I wanted one that was oval. I think at the point I purchased the new crock pot, I had fallen prey to the Mississippi Pot Roast craze, about which I blogged here. Unfortunately, the roast wouldn’t fit properly in my existing crock pot, so I ended up borrowing one from my niece Maggie. Shortly after, I predictably went and purchased my own oval crock pot – a 6 quart pot in which I could cook the CU Buffaloes’ mascot Ralphie. It worked fine for the one-and-only time I made the Mississippi Pot Roast (as I was frankly underwhelmed.  The pot roast that owns the internet indeed!).

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that a 6 qt. crock pot is far too big for the meals that I cook 99-and-44/100th percent of the time (for Bill and me). So the other day, I spontaneously went to Target and bought a 4 qt. crock pot. I brought it home and used it to make smothered pork chops with mushrooms. As I dumped all of the ingredients into the crock pot, I quickly realized that despite being two whole quarts smaller than my other crock pot, it was still too big.

At the crack of dawn the next day, before I could give myself time to reconsider, I went onto Amazon and ordered (with one click!) a two-and-a-half quart crock pot.

Voila! It’s perfect. Except for the fact that I now own four (count ‘em) crock pots in a house which, if you will recall from this exceptionally long and boring post, HAS NO STORAGE SPACE. Jen’s going to be very surprised when she comes next to AZ and finds her bedroom filled with crock pot boxes.

crock-pot-plethora-2

Just kidding, because by time you read this post, my niece Kacy will have picked up my 4-quart crock pot which I brilliantly thought to give her, as she actually IS a working mother with three small kids. And look at the little teeny tiny crock pot on the right. It doesn’t count because it is so small. Right?

For good measure, here is a recipe I recently made in my crock pot. I’m sorry for the poor photo. At some point I will remember to not shoot photos of my food when it sits on a yellow plate. Everything looks a sad color of orange….

beef-and-noodles

Beef ‘n Noodles with Mushrooms and Onions

Ingredients
3 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper
3 T. vegetable or olive oil
2 c. beef broth
1 medium onion, cut into wedges and separated
Half of a 1-oz package of onion soup mix
1/8 c. A1 steak sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
½ T. horseradish
½ t. spicy brown mustard
½ t. salt
2 T. butter, cut into pieces
½ lb. sliced mushrooms (any kind)
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. cold water
16-oz. bag noodles or macaroni

Process
Season beef with salt and pepper as necessary. Brown pieces of beef in the vegetable or olive oil until seared nicely. Put into slow cooker. Add the beef broth, onion, soup mix, steak sauce, garlic, horseradish, mustard, salt, butter and mushrooms to the crock pot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Mix cornstarch and cold water, and add to the mixture, stirring well. Turn to high and cook for 10 minutes more or so, until the sauce begins to thicken.

Serve over noodles, cooked as instructed on the bag or box.

Just Wing It

When I was a kid, my grandmother – who lived in an apartment above my parents’ bakery – made a big noon meal for us every Saturday. And every Saturday it was the same thing – fried chicken. None of us complained, of course, because, well, FRIED CHICKEN.

But like all of those who grew up during the Great Depression, Grammie used every single part of the chicken. She would, of course, fry up the livers and gizzards. (We would fight over the livers and leave the gizzards for Dad and Grandpa.) She would cut up the chicken so that each breast included part of the back. And when she fried the chicken, she included every piece, including the neck.

As we would go around the table and take our pieces of chicken, Grammie would always take the neck. I really like it, she would tell us. We believed her, of course, because she was Grammie.

In hindsight, I reckon she took the neck because she wanted to leave the other pieces for the rest of us. There is little meat on the neck, as I’m sure you know. Well, actually you might not know because, like most of us, you either throw the neck away or boil it for soup stock. You have never tried to nibble a neck.

I have, because I was curious  to see why Grammie liked the neck. I repeat, there is little meat on the neck. And yet, if you nibble carefully enough, you get some a bit of meat that is quite tasty. Why? Because meat next to a bone, whether it is chicken or pork or beef or lamb, is the tastiest.

As for me, my favorite part of the chicken then was the wing. I could usually claim a couple of them because Grammie would fry a couple of chickens. I liked to nibble away at both ends of the wings, but I always preferred the part that isn’t the little drumette.

Things haven’t changed a whole lot, except that now, wings are an essential part of American culture, thanks to a little bar in Buffalo, NY. You know, buffalo wings? By the way, a few years back when Dave and Jll and the family took their sabbatical trip during which they drove in an RV around the US states east of the Mississippi, they stopped at the little bar in Buffalo, NY and tried the wings. Dave’s takeaway? They taste like every other chicken wing in the United States.

Anyhoo, I still love me some chicken wings. But here’s the funny thing: my preferred cooking method is either grilling or roasting in the oven for an hour. When they have finished cooking, I leave mine plain and dip Bill’s in a sauce made from Frank’s Hot Sauce and butter. And whether or not I grill them or bake them, I cut off the little useless piece but otherwise leave well enough alone.

I recently found a recipe on Pinterest in which the contributor claimed that he had the best recipe for baked chicken wings. His trick, he claimed, resulted in crispier wings than you would ever achieve by frying. Crispy, crispy, crispy, he bragged.

And so I decided to give them a try. I’ve always thought mine were delicious, but it was on Pinterest. Like Wikipedia, Pinterest is always right.

His trick? You parboil the chicken wings before you bake them. This, he claimed, took out all of the fat, leaving you with a crispy result.

What it left me with, unfortunately, was a soggy, tasteless chicken wing. I’m pretty sure he put it on Pinterest just to see how many people he could fool.

As my son Court said, “In the history of the universe, what food has ever been improved by removing the fat?”

So the other night, I made chicken wings using my original process, and they were delicious…..

chicken-wings

Salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and bake at 425 for an hour – 30 minutes each side.

I don’t think I will post my recipe on Pinterest.

Talking Turkey

The other day on my blog, I was writing about all of the meals using leftover turkey that follow the main event. Turkey chopped salads. Turkey ala King. Turkey club sandwiches. Turkey tacos. But in the blog post, I specifically mentioned “the inevitable turkey tetrazzini.”

Never being one to be shy, my sister Jen asked me outright on Thanksgiving Day if I really made turkey tetrazzini as one of my Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, or if I was once again using “literary license.” She used air quotes and said it with a bit of a snicker. Literary license, by the way, is my excuse for not always being entirely factual if being a tad, well, not factual is more interesting. Wikipedia calls it artistic license and defines it as distortion of fact…..by an artist in the name of art. So see? It’s a real thing. It only requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination by calling what I produce “art.”

By the way, saying that my sister snickered was also literary license.

But back to turkey tetrazzini.

I admitted to my sister that I had, in fact, never made turkey tetrazzini using my turkey leftovers. I have made turkey noodle soup. Turkey pot pies are a common post-Thanksgiving meal that I make.  Bill loves when I simply throw the leftover turkey into the leftover gravy, and serve it over a slice of white bread with a side of leftover mashed potatoes.

But no turkey tetrazzini. I mentioned “inevitable turkey tetrazzini” because I always saw it as the leftover turkey meal of choice in Redbook and Good Housekeeping. I think it’s been around for decades. My mom might have even prepared it with leftover turkey. It just has a 1960s feel to it, doesn’t it?

Hold that turkey tetrazzini thought, because I want to digress to something only marginally related. The matter of the turkey carcass.

Somewhere near the end of our Thanksgiving meal, a discussion ensued about what was going to happen to the turkey carcass. Or, in our case, the turkey carcasses. There was a point when I thought we might be moving to the living room to perform feats of strength with the carcasses being the grand prize. Thankfully, Allen and I took the high road and backed away, leaving the carcasses to Court and Alyx’s mom Manith. I suspect that two superb pots of soup have recently been made from those bird skeletons.

But back, once again, to turkey tetrazzini.

A day or so following Thanksgiving, I finally had time to begin perusing my Food Network Magazine that featured their Thanksgiving ideas. Lo, and behold, what should appear but a recipe for turkey tetrazzini. Yes indeed, in something as fancy schmancy as Food Network Magazine.

I took a gander and liked what I saw. This was not your mother’s turkey casserole featuring cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese and baked at 350 until the turkey is so dry it gets stuck in your throat. In fact, it didn’t go into the oven at all. And in place of cream of mushroom soup, the recipe called for  — wait for it – a cup-and-a-half of heavy cream. As I perused the recipe, I noticed that I had every single item in my pantry and/or my refrigerator.

I will never again poke fun at turkey tetrazzini, because Bill and I almost licked the pan clean. How do you go wrong with something that includes cream, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and wine?

turkey-tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini with Spinach and Mushrooms

Ingredients
Salt for cooking noodles
8 oz. wide egg noodles
3 T. unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
¼ c. dry white wine
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
3 c. chopped leftover turkey or chicken
8 c. baby spinach
½ c. grated parmesan cheese

Process
Cook the noodles in the salted water as the label directs. Reserve ½ c. cooking water, then drain. Toss with 1 T. butter and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T. butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 min. Add the mushrooms, thyme, ½ t. salt and a few grinds of pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly golden, 6-7 min. Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4-5 min.

Stir the turkey and spinach into the sauce and cook until the turkey is warmed through and the spinach is wilted, about 3 min. Stir in the reserved cooking water and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1/3 C. parmesan cheese.

Add the noodles to the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.

 

Meals and Memories Redux

This blog originally ran on November 12, 2013. I like this particular post because it includes fond memories of my mother, who I miss every day.

A few weeks ago, when Bill and I were still in Arizona, my brother David and I were sitting outside late in the afternoon. Talk turned towards our childhood, as it often does whenever any combination of the siblings gathers.

I think we all agree that we had a wonderful childhood. None of us ever doubted that our parents loved us. Times were different, however. There wasn’t a lot of “I love you’s” tossed around though we knew they did. A term you hear thrown around these days is “helicopter parent.” You know, the parent who hovers around their child making sure no harm ever comes to little Junior or Juniorette. I think it’s safe to say that neither my mother nor my father would ever have been accused of being a helicopter parent.

Here’s an example: My mother was a very sound sleeper. Because of this, it really took a lot of guts for any of us to wake her up in the middle of the night. We knew it would involve a lot of shaking of her shoulders. Eventually, she would leap up in bed with a loud, “What is it?” Gulp. It had better be good because by this time Dad was awake.

For me, it was either “I’m going to throw up,” or “I can’t sleep.” If I was going to throw up, she was liable to ask me why I was telling her this in her bedroom instead of leaning over the toilet in the bathroom. And the “I can’t sleep”, well, that just got on her very last nerve.

Her answer to that particular complaint, without exception, was (say it with me Siblings), “Nobody ever died from a lack of sleep. Go back to bed.” I have no recollection of her ever getting out of her bed to tuck me back into my bed.

By the way, as an adult, I can certainly see, clear as day, just how silly it is to awaken someone to tell them that you can’t sleep. But for some reason it made perfect sense to me as a 7-year-old.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a good idea for anyone to bring harm or even angst to any of her children. Do so, and out came the Mother Lion. I clearly remember when a neighbor boy who was a year or so older than me and a bully before people became concerned about bullies chased me down, held me to the ground, and kissed me on the lips. I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I broke free and ran to my mother in tears. I vividly remember that she went to her closet, got the broom, and chased him all the way back to his house. She may not have caught him, but I’m sure he felt the bristles on the back of his neck.

But back to David and my conversation that day. We were talking about Mom’s good cooking. He told me his favorite meal and I told him mine. It got me to thinking about her cooking, so this week I asked all my siblings what meal they would have Mom make if she could come back to cook one dinner for them.

My sister Beckie’s response: Mom’s fried chicken. My mom, by the way, always claimed that she couldn’t cook a lick when she got married. All of her cooking skills were learned from her mother-in-law. I’m sure that’s true as my mom was the youngest of 13 kids, and her mom died before my mom was married, and sick for much longer than that. Not in a position to teach my mom to cook. So Mom’s fried chicken is actually my grandmother’s fried chicken, and now my fried chicken. Don’t confuse this chicken with southern-style because it isn’t crunchy. Instead, it is tender and flavorful.

My Family’s Fried Chicken

Ingredients
1 frying chicken, cut into 10 pieces (my mother always cut each breast into two pieces}
1-2 c. flour, well-seasoned with salt and pepper
Butter and vegetable oil, half and half, deep enough to fill a pan to a depth of about a quarter of an inch

Process
Preheat the butter and oil in the fry pan until it’s hot enough to sizzle if you flick a drop of water into the pan. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off the excess. Lay the pieces skin-side-down into the hot oil. Cook until it’s nicely brown, 5-6 minutes. Turn over and do the same on the other side. It doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through. Only fry a few pieces at a time or your shortening will cool down too much and your chicken pieces won’t brown nicely.

As you remove the chicken pieces from the pan, place them into a roasting pan. (Conversely, you can place them temporarily on a plate and return all of the pieces to the pan to finish. Make sure your pan is oven-proof and has a lid if you choose this option.) Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and place into a preheated 350 degree oven for an hour or so until the chicken is cooked through and falls off the bone.

Nana’s Notes: Personally, I believe a cast iron skillet is imperative to make good fried chicken. Having said this, I must say I don’t believe my mother used a cast iron skillet. Still, you would have to pry my lovely well-seasoned iron skillet out of my hand to make me fry chicken in a regular skillet. I used to fry the chicken, place the pieces on a plate until finished, pour out most of the grease, return the chicken to that pan, cover and finish cooking it in the oven. Now, however, I fry the chicken and put the pieces into a toss-away aluminum roasting pan, cover it with tin foil and finish it in the oven. There is no getting around it. Frying chicken is messy business. Also, I add a bit of cayenne pepper to my seasoned flour. Don’t tell my mother.

Burnt Sugar and Volleyball

When I was in middle school and high school, I was a tremendous athlete. I was the captain of our volleyball team. I was the starting pitcher for the girls’ softball team. I still hold the Nebraska girls’ record for pole vaulting.

I’m lying.

I didn’t play a single sport. Not a one. It wasn’t entirely my fault. At my high school in the 60s and 70s, there were no athletic options for girls. None. Zero. Zip. There are now, but in those days, if you weren’t a cheerleader, you got no school-sponsored exercise beyond gym class. And then most of the exercise in gym class came from attempting to outrun the gym teacher so that you didn’t have to take a shower which would require taking off your clothes in front of others.

In my case, it didn’t make a lick of difference because I likely wouldn’t have played any sports even if I’d had the option. I’m just not very athletic. Though my siblings and I all love many sports, and eagerly watched our kids and now watch our grandkids in all sorts of athletic activities, it’s safe to say that Mom and Dad weren’t troubled by too many letters of intent to any colleges for any of us.

Late last week, Addie texted me and asked if she could come over and do a test run on making crème brulee, something she wants to serve at her upcoming dinner party. Yes, you are recalling right. Addie is 13. But she has a yearly dinner party for which she prepares all of her food.

Anyway, I agreed to help her with the crème brulee test run on Saturday.

addie-putting-up-netAnd then she texted me a bit later and asked if it would be okay to set up the volleyball net in our back yard and invite two or three of her girlfriends over to play volleyball, as volleyball tryouts are being held Tuesday and Thursday.

Yep, I assured her. That would be just fine. And then, of course, Bill got to work making our backyard look like an Olympic volleyball court. He mowed an area the appropriate size. He laid down a rope to indicate boundaries. He trimmed the nearby tree. I was waiting for the truck to pull up and dump a load of sand. I love my husband.

Just before the girls were scheduled to arrive, I left for a quick trip to the grocery store. When I returned, my vision of some girls tossing a volleyball around and giggling was put to rest. Addie had set up a full-out volleyball clinic, including a coach. Now, to be fair, the coach is the mother of one of the girls, but she had played volleyball in school, and was very good and very knowledgeable. It was serious business, my friends. If those girls don’t make the team, it will be through no fault of either Addie, Bill, or me.

volleyball-clinic-2

Back to my area of expertise, which is certainly not volleyball. Crème Brulee.

Addie and I spent the morning making the crème brulee. And they turned out perfectly….

creme-brulee-2

 

Once the girls took a break from volleyball, they came inside and took a turn at using my rarely-used kitchen propane torch and burning the sugar on their individual desserts….

torching-creme-brulee

I will leave you with the recipe for crème brulee, but not the recipe for successful volleyball skills. You’ll have to ask Addie.

Crème Brulee
Makes six servings

Ingredients
1 qt. heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 c. white sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
Hot water

Process
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Once it reaches temperature, remove it immediately from the heat. Cover and let it sit 15 min. to cool. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ c. sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture just starts to lighten in color. Then add the cream A LITTLE AT A TIME, stirring continually. If you add the hot mixture too quickly, the egg mixture will scramble. Once combined, pour the custard into 6 (7-8 oz.) ramekins. Place the ramekins onto a large sheet pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the custard is set but still shaky in the center, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and allow 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Using the remaining sugar, spread evenly over the custard. Then, using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy crust.

Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Nana’s Notes: I assure you, the crème brulee did not rest 5 minutes before the girls dug in. From the sounds of delight, they must have been good.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Got Milk?

I think I’ve mentioned six or seven hundred times that when I was a kid in the 1950s, I loved the television show Captain Kangaroo. The Treasure House. The Banana Man and Grandfather Clock. Other characters with clever names like Bunny Rabbit (a bunny rabbit), Mr. Moose (a moose), Dancing Bear (a dancing bear), and Mr. Green Jeans (I’ll leave that to your imagination).

The Captain and all of his friends had a positive impact on my formative years. To this day I will hear a piece of classical music and I will realize I recognize it from hearing it on Captain Kangaroo. I can’t go to the zoo without singing “Look there Daddy, do you see? There’s a horse in striped pajamas.” I know, Baby Boomers, now that song is stuck in your heads. My grands look at me like I’m nuts. They’re only partially wrong.

searchI’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking about cereal lately. Cereal is something I can eat on my low fiber diet, but not any that are actually healthy. Nope, only the ones that have no fiber. Cereal like Frosted Flakes. Which, of course, makes me think about my childhood, during which I ate cereals like Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, Apple Jacks, and my mother’s one nod to healthy low-sugar cereals, Rice Krispies (which we liberally doused with sugar, thereby rendering them unhealthy). We used to get the snack packs, and we would bicker about who would get which cereal, none of us wanting the lone Corn Flakes, which always got tossed.

As I pondered my childhood cereals, I realized they were all made by Kellogg’s. I know there were other brands of cereals available. I’m certain at any rate that Post cereals were available, but they certainly weren’t on our family’s pantry shelf. Why?

My conclusion? Kellogg’s must have sponsored Captain Kangaroo, and we listened to the captain.

As an aside, while at the grocery store the other day, I noticed that an entire aisle of the supermarket is devoted to all-things-cereal. Not only are there very many more kinds of cereals, but many cereals have a variety of versions. Cheerios, for example. According to Cheerios’ own website (and yes, this cereal has its own website), there are Original, Honey Nut, Multi Grain, Ancient Grains, Honey Nut Medley Crunch, Frosted, Apple Cinnamon, Fruity, Banana Nut, Multi Grain Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Multi Grain Dark Chocolate Crunch, Dulce de Leche, Cinnamon Burst, and Protein Cinnamon Almond. Imagine. Here are a couple of photos I took at our market….

fotorcreated

As I further pondered cereal (remember that I’m retired and have lots of time on my hands), I began thinking about the milk we pour over our cereal. And how the milk, in my opinion, is the best part. All sugary and delicious.

Both Bill and I still drink the milk from our cereal. In fact, just like when we were kids, we unapologetically drink it straight from the bowl. Because sugary milk does not require a glass or a spoon. And we are proud of our milk mustaches.

I did a quick survey of the grands and their cereal milk-drinking habits. Here’s what I learned…

Alastair – always
Addie – about half
Dagny – never
Maggie Faith – no milk ever; eats her cereal dry
Joseph and Micah – yes, it’s a house rule that they must drink their milk
Kaiya – never
Mylee – never, or eats it dry
Cole – it hasn’t occurred to him and he spills half of it anyway

Cinnamon Toast Crunch seems to be a favorite amongst many of the grands. It’s a General Mills product, so it wasn’t advertised on Captain Kangaroo. Therefore, it was a no-go for me. However, I recently saw this recipe for a brunch cocktail, and while I’m not a fan of fancy-dancy drinks, I must admit this appealed to me. It’s the fact that you use the cereal milk. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch….

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cocktail

Makes 2 cocktails, with more for virgin drinks

Ingredients
3 c. whole milk
2 c. Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
2 shots Fireball whiskey, or other cinnamon whiskey
2 shots rum cream liqueur

Process
Combine milk and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in a large bowl or pitcher, and let steep for one hour in the refrigerator. Strain, saving the milk and tossing the cereal.

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add the cinnamon whiskey, rum liqueur and 6 oz. of the milk. Shake and divide between two glasses filled with ice. Use the remaining milk for additional drinks or for non-alcoholic beverages for people who like sweetened milk.

Like me.

“Pinning” for You

I own a ridiculous number of cookbooks – ridiculous because I actually use a total of exactly two. Well, perhaps technically more than two. I tend to lump all of my Lidia Bastianich cookbooks into one. If I cook one of her recipes, I use the actual cookbook. Of her cookbooks, the one I use far and away the most is Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen. It has the tomato sauce stains to prove it.

20160918_140120

The other cookbook I open occasionally is my beloved Joy of Cooking cookbook that belonged to my mother-in-law who gifted it to me a number of years ago. It’s beloved simply because it’s from her. I can’t say I use it often. Joy of Cooking is a classic cookbook from which you can get recipes for practically anything. For heaven’s sake, it even tells me how to dress a deer (and I don’t mean in camouflage shirt and pants, ar ar ar). Needless to say, I haven’t actually had the need to hang a dead deer from my back porch because Bill doesn’t hunt, thank goodness. I’m not anti-hunting, mind you. Just anti-dressing-a-deer and anti-plucking-a-goose-or-wild-turkey. At any rate, Wilma’s Joy of Cooking was well-used by her, and looks much like my Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen.

dressing-a-deer

I was thinking about this the other day as I was searching all of my various spots for a particular recipe. It’s a pasta salad that I make often but have never memorized. I have it somewhere, but I can never remember where. Since the pasta salad originated with my sister Bec, I generally email her and ask her to send me the recipe.

However, when I made the salad recently, I googled the recipe. It isn’t an easy one to find, as it comes from the Crème de Colorado Cookbook (one of Colorado Junior League’s cookbooks) which isn’t online. But I put in “tortellini salad havarti salami” and eventually found it on the Better Homes and Gardens website. I don’t know if BHG stole it from the Junior League or if Junior League stole it from BHG. I envision both groups comprised of women wearing pillbox hats and white gloves and not stealing, so your guess is as good as mine.

All this is to say – perhaps randomly – that I love Pinterest. I wish I had invented Pinterest. First, and foremost, because I would likely be a millionaire. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about looking for recipes because I would have a professional chef on my staff. But second, because I would be so proud of myself for having had such a good idea.

I rarely use cookbooks anymore (see above), but that isn’t to say that I don’t use recipes. Oh my, yes I do. I couldn’t cook without a recipe. I’m not one of those. My siblings all cook without recipes. Me, I need to have someone telling me what ingredients are necessary and how much of each. Having two homes makes keeping track of my recipes somewhat difficult. As it is, I haul many of them back and forth – mostly those that were my mom’s recipe cards. But more and more, I’m able to find the recipes online and “pin” them to my Pinterest page. That way I have access to my recipes wherever I am as long as I have internet access, and I know where to find them.

I used to religiously peruse Pinterest and pin recipes, decorating ideas, crocheting patterns, and other things that are important in my life. I still occasionally will log onto Pinterest and pin one thing or another. But mostly I use it as a giant high tech recipe box. That alone makes it worth what I pay for Pinterest (which, of course, is nothing).

By the way, here is the recipe for the Havarti Tortellini Salad. It is so good that even Addie’s 13-year-old friends ask for the recipe…..

Havarti Tortellini Pasta Salad

Ingredients
10 oz fresh cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and drained
¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
¼ lb. salami, cubed
¼ lb. Havarti cheese, cubed
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
½ c. black olives, sliced
2 green onions including tops, sliced

Dressing:
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. dried basil
1 t. Dijon mustard
¼ t. salt
¼ t.coarsely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Process
In large bowl, combine tortellini, parsley, salami cheese, bell pepper, olives and green onion.  In blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blend well.  Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

If making more than 3 hours ahead, reserve half the dressing and toss with salad just before serving.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

The New Kale

Kris_Grands004_optI often think about what it must have been like for my grandparents when they came to the United States from Switzerland six or seven years after the end of World War I. I’m sure they were sad to leave their country of origin. Grammie talked about being a young wife and mother and having to say goodbye to her parents, knowing full well that it was likely she would never see them again. She was right. While Grammie and Grandpa did return several times to Switzerland many years later, her parents were long gone and she never did see them again. And no email or Face Time. Whaaaaaaat?

Bill and I traveled around Europe – mostly France and Italy – for three-and-a-half months, and I can tell you that while we enjoyed every minute, we often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. We didn’t know the language. We couldn’t figure out some of the customs. We couldn’t find a good hamburger.

That latter fact is more important than you would think. While we loved the food we sampled during our travels, we often missed the familiar foods we grew up eating – hamburgers, fried chicken, barbecued spareribs. The reason they call these foods comfort food is because eating these foods make us feel comfortable.

So in addition to giving up family and friends and familiar customs, my grandparents had to get used to a whole new way of eating. They, like most immigrants, lived near others from their own countries of origin. Because of this, they probably were able to get some of the foods that were familiar to them. I remember, for example, my dad and my grandparents eating a highly suspect food with a wholly unpleasant smell called head cheese. Head cheese is not cheese at all, but more of a sausage or cold cut made from, well, the head of pigs or cows. Yummers, right? And just to add to the fun, it is set in aspic. You know, aspic – in and of itself a totally disgusting item. You’ll be glad to know that the brains, eyes, and ears are almost never included, according to Wikipedia.

Another delicacy that my grandparents and my father enjoyed was limburger cheese. I couldn’t even be in the room with them when they ate it. It smelled awful. More than awful. Much more than awful. And I once again looked it up on Wikipedia and learned why it has such a dreadful odor. It seems limburger cheese is made using the bacteria called brevibacterium linens. That, my friends, is a bacteria found on the human body and is responsible for human body odor.

I’ve got to stop looking on Wikipedia.

kohlrabi rawRecently I read that the vegetable kohlrabi is coming into fashion. The new kale, according to what I read. I mentioned this awhile back, and also said that I was having trouble finding the vegetable. In fact, I couldn’t find a single produce person who had ever even heard of it. But I was at lunch with a friend recently who had stopped at a farm near her home in Brighton, Colorado, to bring me fresh corn on the cob, and I mentioned my quest for kohlrabi.

“They had it at the Palizzi’s Farm,” she told me. “I would have brought you some but I didn’t know what it was!”

So I went to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday where Palizzi’s had a booth, and lo, and behold, I found kohlrabi.

Why kohlrabi? I assure you that it wasn’t because kohlrabi is the new kale. Do I seem like a food snob? No, friends, it was because I remembered my grandmother making kohlrabi (which was and is often eaten in Germany and Switzerland) when I was a child, and I loved it.

The problem is that I couldn’t remember how she made it. I’m pretty sure it involved speck, a bacon-like substance that originated in Europe, which she got from her brother-in-law-the-butcher. I had enough trouble finding kohlrabi; I have no intention of starting a hunt for speck.

But I did find a recipe, and made kohlrabi last night for dinner. It was worth the hunt.

kohlrabi cooked

Ingredients
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Process
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and then cut the halves into half-moons. Spread on the bottom of a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic; pour the olive oil over the vegetables, and stir until coated.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake 10 minutes; stir the vegetables. Bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the kohlrabi and bake another five minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nana’s Notes: I would definitely compare kohlrabi to turnips except they are much sweeter. They really were very good. And my grandmother DIDN’T use parmesan cheese, I assure you.

Frozen Fruit

pmqgdreaz56msss6buvuThe first thing I want to say is I think that the entire world misspells the word sherbet. I pronounce it sher-bert. Always have. Always will. So that’s how it should be spelled. But it isn’t.

It’s kind of like the town in Nebraska – not far from where I grew up – called Norfolk. Now, if you are from Norfolk, VA, you pronounce it Nu-fuuk. Or something like that. But if you live in central or eastern Nebraska, you pronounce it Nor-fork, despite the fact that there is only one “R” in the word. Nebraskans, however, aren’t just being contrary. The name of the town originated from the fact that it is near the north fork of the Elkhorn River, but it became misspelled somewhere along the way.

I don’t know if something similar happened to sherbet, or if perhaps I’m the only one in the world who pronounces it sher-bert. But the bottom line is, it doesn’t really matter. Because no matter how it’s spelled or pronounced, I was bound and determined to make lime sherbet with Kaiya and Mylee yesterday.

I am a big fan of sherbet. Orange sherbet is my favorite, and if you really want to send me over the moon, give me a dreamsicle. When my father and mother owned the bakery in Columbus, they had an ice cream freezer from which they offered sweet treats. Ice cream bars, fudgesicles, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream drumsticks. I loved being able to enjoy an ice cream treat after school or on a Saturday afternoon. And my choice? Almost every time? Dreamsicles. Well, to be honest, they were really orange push-ups. There was orange sherbet on the top and creamy vanilla ice cream on the bottom. Heaven on a stick.

kaiya lime sherbet

I think that Kaiya looks like Princess Kate in her Fascinator.

During the summer, our neighborhood Good Times offers a frozen custard flavor of the month, and on several occasions, that flavor has been dreamsicle. I would be embarrassed to tell you how often I will drive through and sneak a cup of dreamsicle frozen custard. Bill, I’m going to run up to church to light a candle for world peace, I will say, and head over to Good Times. The orange stain above my top lip when I get home gives me away every time.

Instead of orange, however, Kaiya and I made lime sherbet. Mylee was too busy playing with Play Doh. Through the process of finding a recipe, I learned that the difference between ice cream and sherbet is that sherbet uses half and half or milk as opposed to heavy cream. Oh, and fruit of course.

I dug out my ice cream maker for the first time this year. We mixed together the four ingredients and set the ice cream maker in motion.

freezing lime sherbet

Thirty minutes later, we had ourselves some lime sherbet.

lime sherbet

Lime Sherbet, recipe courtesy Amy Johnson from She Wears Many Hats

Ingredients
2 t. lime zest (from about 2 limes)
½ c. lime juice (2-3 limes)
2 c. half and half
½ c. sugar

Process
Zest and juice the limes. Combine zest and juice with the half and half and the sugar. Pour it all into an ice cream maker and freeze according to ice cream maker directions. When frozen thick, serve right away or transfer to a plastic container and place in freezer until ready to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Nana’s Notes: To be honest, next time I make it, I will add more sugar. It is very tart, which grown-ups are supposed to like. I, however, like my sherbet to be sweet. I like most everything to be sweet. Also, the recipe doesn’t call for any food coloring. But Kaiya was very sad that the sherbet was so, well, not green. So we did add a few drops of green food coloring. Please don’t call the Pure Food Police.