Monday, September 29, 2014

"Crazy Quilt Cookery" by Bunny Day - Beef Casserole/meatloaf for a rainy day

Date I made this recipe:  September 24, 2014

Crazy-Quilt Cookery by Bunny Day
Published by: Gramercy Publishing Company
© MCMXLIV (1944)
Purchased at the most awesome estate sale ever!  The lady of the house was downsizing and she used to be a home economist.  Two words:  Cookbook Nirvana!

Recipe:  Beef Casserole (really, a meatloaf in disguise) – p. 59-60

So here's my story about why I chose this recipe and I'm sticking to it:  I was seduced by cornflakes.  Yup.  Good old Kellogg's was featured in a recipe and I was intrigued, then curious and then seduced.  Corn Flakes are like that you know—not as fancy as your Fruit Loops or your Captain Crunch but just as lethal.  So let's take a look at how this all happened.

Earlier that day:  as always at this time of year, selecting a recipe (and clothing) is a gamble.  Today started out rainy and that made me think of comfort food and casseroles and quilts (hint:  this is what is called "foreshadowing.")  The day before though, was sunny.  And the weather the day after I made this casserole is also sunny and warm – near 80.   So lucky for me, I hit the right recipe on the right day and all was well with the world.  Except...

...I should have realized that what was labeled a "casserole," specifically "beef casserole," was not, in fact, a "beef casserole" but was a meatloaf in disguise.  A meatloaf that called for cornflakes.  And again, I saw that and I was all "Cornflakes? Well, this could be awesome!" And it tasted great, but it was not a casserole and the cornflakes only served as binder in the same way that bread crumbs or oatmeal does with a meatloaf.

Deep heavy sighs ensued.  Deep.  Because when I want a casserole folks, I want a casserole.  There were plenty in this book, many requiring the standard can of Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken or Cream of "Whatnot" but did I go with any of them?  Nope.  And that's because I was seduced by the cornflakes.  This is shameful kitchen behavior on my part, people.  Shameful.  So enamored was I by the cookbook, the casserole and the cornflakes that I didn't really read the recipe to see what I was in for.  Reading is a good thing.  Pausing is another i.e. "pause" to take in all that is required for ingredients and for cooking before making a snap decision. 

In fact, had I been thinking clearly, I would have contemplated also the rules of one of my favorite shows, Chopped (Food Network): 1) you must make a meal out of four disparate ingredients in the basket and you must use all four ingredients, not three, not two but four and 2) you must repurpose your ingredients such that you don't just go and dump three cups of cornflakes into the meat like I did, you must do something outstanding like toast each cornflake individually and then with your tweezers, add microscopically chopped roasted vegetables to make an AMAZING itty bitty taco.  THAT, people, is the sign of a Chopped Champion.

So, to review:  On Chopped, not repurposing is bad.  Very bad.   Almost worse than leaving an ingredient off the plate.  In other words, you're going to hell.  I just hope I get to take the rest of the box with me.

Even earlier than earlier that day:  So like I said, the weather was rainy and rain makes me think of casseroles and quilts, specifically eating a casserole whilst bundled up in a quilt.  And so when I looked upwards at the sky and at my bookshelves and saw this cookbook, Crazy-Quilt Cookery, I knew we were meant to be.  Except...

...this book isn't about quilts at all like I thought ("don't judge a book by its cover") but rather "From holiday dinners at grandmother's house to sophisticated suppers in New York, a patch-quilt of recipes for all budgets and all occasions." (From the back cover) In other words, the quilt on the cover was just another ruse to get me to cook out of this book.  And I was once again seduced.  Sigh.

Now you might be tempted to see the author's name, Bunny Day, and think "Well, speaking of seduction..." but that would not be appropriate for our author, Eleanor "Bunny" F. Day.  This Bunny has authored several cookbooks, had her own TV show and was grandmother of two.  "Bunny" was actually a very popular name/nickname a few decades ago and I know of two people named Bunny, both of whom were very nice.  No Thumper though. (!)

As to the other recipes, this cookbook appears to be a good primer for making basic comfort foods like roasts, salads (including yes, Jell-O), casseroles and more.  Nothing is fancy, and ingredients are kept to a minimum but most dishes sound good and well, comforting! And so it came to pass that I ate my non-casserole huddled under my non-crazy quilt in the rain.  Our circle is complete.

Beef Casserole (meatloaf) – serves 6
1 ½ pounds ground chuck beef
2 eggs slightly beaten
3 cups corn flakes
1 tablespoon minced onion or ½ onion chopped
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon A-1 sauce
½ cup chili sauce

Mix the beef, eggs, corn flakes, onion, salt, pepper and A-1 sauce well with your hands.  Pack into a casserole and spread the chili sauce on top.  Bake at 400F for 30 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"The Val-Kill Cook Book" (Eleanor Roosevelt's home) - Tony's (Elliot Roosevelt, Jr.) Sunday Night Chili

Date I made this recipe:  September 14, 2014 – The start of Ken Burns' 7-part series, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History
The Val-Kill Cook Book with Illustrations and Photographs of Eleanor Roosevelt's Life at Val-Kill, compiled and Edited by Eleanor R. Seagraves; Illustrated by Eleanor Roosevelt Wotkyns; Photographs courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Published by:  The Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, Inc.
© 1984
Purchased at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Washington D.C.

Recipe:  Tony's Sunday Night Chili, submitted by Elliot (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr., Texas; basic chili recipe derived from the following recipes:  Simple, Perfect Chili, Recipe courtesy of Ree Drummond (Food Network), © 2011 Ree Drummond; 2014 Television Food Network and Chili by Betty Crocker, © 2014 ®/TM General Mills.

Not to brag or anything, but PBS just launched a new Ken Burns documentary series, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History and of course I have a Roosevelt-related cookbook!  I tell you, just when you think you are never going to be able to use it, life occurs.

First, a bit of a history lesson:  Just like the famous Kennedy family, the Roosevelt family of New York was quite the powerhouse group in their day. Teddy Roosevelt, cousin to Franklin, served as our 26th President from 1901 (taking over after President McKinley was assassinated) until 1909.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd president, ushered our country through the Great Depression and most of WWII.  And Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of Teddy and wife of Franklin (so she was Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt) led a life of service to the world that is unparalleled:  delegate to the newly-formed United Nations, chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women under JFK.  All this came after serving as First Lady.  All in all, this is a mighty impressive family.

Andy and I have been excited about this documentary as we're history buffs and have also done our "homework."  Years ago, I read a lot about Eleanor and often re-quote her quote "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."  In fact, I might have used this in my law-school application essay.  And Andy has read up on both FDR and Teddy Roosevelt and so he's good to go for those two.  In fact, as of late, Andy has read a steady stream of books about Teddy, having polished off all the FDR books of interest.  When we were in NYC this July, we also stopped briefly at Teddy's Birthplace at 28th East 20th Street (between Park and Broadway).  Alas, we couldn't spend much time as we had to get back uptown but we will return another day.

The documentary, produced and directed by legendary documentary-maker, Ken Burns (The Civil War; Baseball; New York, among others), takes us through the entire history of the Roosevelt family, starting with Teddy and his childhood.  As always, everything that Ken does is interesting and informative.

One of the things Ken talks about in the documentary is that the entire Roosevelt clan had several homes in NY state, and one of Eleanor's favorite places was a cottage in Val-Kill, NY.  Today's featured cookbook contains recipes from Val-Kill. 

Other notable housing:  Teddy had home called Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, NY.  His birthplace in NYC is now a part of the National Park Service.  (Note:  it's not the original house, which was torn down but a replica rebuilt to look like it would have between 1865-1872.)

And then there's Springwood estate in Hyde Park, NY that was FDR's childhood home.  He and Eleanor and FDR's mother lived in Springwood after they got married, much to Eleanor and her mother-in-law's chagrin as neither really liked the other. The Hyde Park house is a popular tourist attraction, as is the famed Culinary Institute of America.  Hmm—coincidence that I mention that in a cookbook blog?

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage retreat, Val-Kill, located about two miles from Hyde Park, is where Eleanor liked to go to unwind and where she moved to after she left the White House.    Author Eleanor R. Seagraves was Franklin and Eleanor's granddaughter, born to Anna Roosevelt and Curtis Bean Dall.   The book's illustrator is Eleanor Roosevelt Wotkyns, Eleanor Roosevelt's niece.  And to make the family picture complete, today's recipe is from Elliott (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of Franklin and Eleanor.  "Tony's" father, Elliot was one of Franklin and Eleanor's six children.  As to the rest of the family connections, watch the series!  (You can also read the history of Val-Kill in the preface to the cookbook.)

The recipes in this cookbook were all submitted by friends and family of "ERVK" – Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill – and it reads very much like any other community cookbook but with the twist of being connected to a famous person/family.  And while many of the dishes were likely more modern than Eleanor enjoyed (Tamale Pie? Taco Salad?), they all looked good.  I was leaning toward one of the soups, and also a couple of chicken recipes until I spied "Tony" Roosevelt's chili recipe and laughed out loud at the directions:  "Prepare any traditional chili recipe, but use pieces of round steak instead of hamburger meat."  Could it get much easier?  I think not!

So with that selected, I then had to go about obtaining a "traditional chili recipe."  The book has a few recipes, including a Tailgate Chili which would have been appropriate given that it was Sunday and that means NFL football, specifically, Packers football, but nothing hit me so I looked to the internet. (Note, I am just not a big fan of green pepper so that recipe was out as was one that contained corn.)   Most chili recipes are a lot alike and so I mainly used Ree Drummond's from the Food Network  (online) but also added onion as per the Betty Crocker recipe, also available online.  I like cooked onions in my chili although not raw and on top as some recipes suggest.  I also intended to use a can of diced tomatoes per the Betty Crocker recipe but forgot to buy it.  Let's just say I got distracted in my grocery story by the vast selection of beans.  Who knew there were so many brands? (There are also too damned many canned tomatoes which is irksome when I am just trying to find plain tomatoes, with nothing else added.)

So---as directed by Tony, I purchased and then diced about 1.5 pounds of round steak to use in my cobbled recipes.  Note that you may need to cook the round steak a bit longer than directed as it won't cook as easily as ground beef. As to the spices, just about any combination of chili powder, oregano and cayenne pepper will do.  Although this chili was good, I'm hoping that the flavors developed a bit more overnight when I reheat the leftovers.  Not that I want throat-searing heat, you understand, but I expected more of a bite than I got.

Tony advises us to top our chili with chopped onion (pass), chopped avocados (loved) and grated cheese (yum).  His directions also call for the chili to be served over rice and I love rice so that was easy.  The thing I liked the best though, was the round steak.  Sure, ground beef is fine and it is standard and it is slightly cheaper but I like to change things up a bit so there you go.

By the way, one of the last recipes in the book was for FDR's martinis but it calls for 1 part dry vermouth and that is just wrong in my cocktail playbook though I appreciated the inclusion of the recipe in this book.  I think I'm more like Winston Churchill who was rumored to have poured the gin and looked across the room at the vermouth.  Luckily for us all, these world leaders managed to overcome their martini differences – whew - and worked very well together during WWII.

Oh—almost forgot to mention that I was about halfway through making the chili when I realized that the New York Jets were playing my Packers in Lambeau Field and wouldn't you know, Val-Kill is in NY state. ("When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day...." – West Side Story; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.)  And the recipe was called "Tony's Sunday Night Chili" and Sundays are all about football, am I right?  So quite inadvertently, I nearly jinxed the game by cooking from a NY cookbook and sure enough, the Jets were way out in front until a miracle occurred and we pulled a "W" out of it all.  Luckily, this game ended just before Andy and I tuned in to watch the first episode of The Roosevelts or all might have been lost all because of a chili recipe! 

So—watch the series, make the chili, get the cookbook, eat well and be prepared to learn something.

Tony's Sunday Night Chili  - serving size not given but typically chili serves 6-8

Ingredients (select from below for your own personal preference)
1-2 pounds round steak, diced into small cubes – or 1 pound ground beef (Betty Crocker) or 2 pounds ground beef (Ree Drummond)
1 large onion (Crocker)
2 cloves garlic, chopped (Drummond) or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (Crocker)
One 8-oz can tomato sauce (Drummond) or 1 can (14.5) diced tomatoes, undrained (Crocker) or both!
2 tablespoon chili powder (Drummond) or 1 tablespoon chili powder (Crocker)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (Drummond)(Crocker)
1 teaspoon ground oregano (Drummond) or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves (Ann's Note:  I used and liked the ground oregano)
1 teaspoon salt (Drummond) or ½ teaspoon salt (Crocker)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Drummond) or ½ teaspoon red pepper sauce
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour) (Drummond only) (Ann's Note:  check out a local coop as they usually sell it in bulk and you don't need that much.  I found mine at the Seward Coop).
One 15-ounce can kidney beans (Drummond says rinse and drain, Crocker says undrained)
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (Drummond only)

For Tony's chili, top with chopped onion, chopped avocado and cheese.  (Drummond used cheese, onions, tortilla chips and lime wedges; Crocker didn't use toppings)

Instructions: (combination of Drummond and Crocker)

Peel and chop the onion and/or garlic.  Place the ground beef/round steak in a large pot and throw in the garlic/onion, cooking over medium heat until browned (Drummond) or thoroughly cooked (Crocker), approximately 8-10 minutes.  Ann's Note:  you'll need to go a bit longer if using round steak like I did.  Drain the grease and add back to the pot.

In the same pot, add your spices and your tomato sauce, diced tomatoes or both (but not beans).  Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.  If the mixture becomes overly dry, add ½ cup water at a time as needed (Drummond). 

(Drummond only) After an hour, place the masa harina in a small bowl.  Add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork.  Dump the masa mixture into the chili.  Stir together well, and then taste and adjust the seasonings.  Add more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor.

Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes (Drummond) or 20 minutes (Crocker).  Serve with toppings.  Ann's Note:  remember, Crocker uses the beans undrained while Drummond uses two types of beans, both of which need to be drained and rinsed.  I've made chili before using either direction and don't find a discernable difference with the choice.  Your call.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook" - Shrimp and Feta Vermicelli - For Forrest Gump's 20th "birthday"

Date I made this recipe:  September 7, 2014:  Forrest Gump is 20 years old!

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook – Recipes & Reflections from FORREST GUMP; foreword by Winston Groom, author of the novel, Forrest Gump
Published by:  Oxmoor House
ISBN:  0-8487-1479-2
Purchased at Riverbank Antiques & Bookshop, Prescott, WI
Recipe:  Shrimp and Feta Vermicelli – p. 88

Ways to make your husband happy, part 802:  Make him a shrimp and pasta dish from The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook that he loved to commemorate the 20th anniversary of one of his favorite movies, Forrest Gump.  I am a genius!

Believe it or not folks, Forrest Gump (the movie, not the fictional character) turns 20 this month.  It was a cute little movie, wasn't it, featuring a loveable main character, Forrest, a fun group of friends – Bubba and Captain Dan - and a mama who imparted all kinds of wisdom to her baby boy.  And the movie is fun because it is emminently quotable, although truth be told, my favorite line is not "Life is like a box of chocolates..." but rather "Stupid is as stupid does." No elaboration, needed, right?

Now, I don't have scientific evidence to support this, but I think a movie has made its mark in society when it is played and replayed and replyaed on various and sundry cable channels until you feel like you must have stared in it, or at the very least, written it, you've seen it so often.  Forrest Gump is now one of those movies.  Of course, being the Academy Award winner for Best Picture might also have something to do with it. 

On the other hand, for the longest time, the running joke was that cable station, TNT, had morphed into "The Shawshank Channel" as The Shawshank Redemption was the only show that on that channel.  Daytime, nighttime, anytime in between, when you tuned in, it was Shawshank followed by more Shawshank followed by yet another round of Shawshank.  Like Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption was also released in 1994 along with these other contenders for Best Picture:  Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Quiz Show.  I have to tell you that I'm rather surprised that Pulp Fiction (the only movie I did not see that year) did not win but that is the beauty of the awards, right, because say it with me, folks:  "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."  "Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week..."

By the way, the ending of The Shawshank Redemption is the stuff [my] dreams are made of – well, except for that prison part.  And shall I tell you that I have yet to watch Pulp Fiction? I know, right?  I mean, I've seen parts of it but not the entire movie although some of the music from the movie is fantastic.  Two words:  Dick Dale!  (Dick Dale wrote the song Misirlou that was used in the movie and is known as The King of the Surf Guitar).  Four Weddings and a Funeral is still good for a laugh or two (save for anything uttered by actress Andie MacDowell who did not work for me in that movie.)  My favorite line from that movie came from  Gareth, played by actor, Simon Callow, who uttered "It's bloody Brigadoon!" upon seeing, and then participating in the Scottish dancing at "Carrie's" (Andie MacDowell) Scottish wedding. (FYI—the movie/musical, Brigadoon, starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, was about Americans in Scotland, hence the remark.)

Okay, where was I?  Ah yes, Forrest Gump.   If you watched the movie (and you have, correct?), then you know that the character, Bubba, was pivotal to the plot and was instrumental in Forrest becoming a shrimp boat captain.  In 1996, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., named after characters "Bubba" Blue and Forrest Gump, opened a restaurant by the same name (there's even one in the Mall of America) and the rest is history.  The cookbook though, was published in 1994, shortly after the movie came out.

Like Bubba and Forrest, we love shrimp in this household, so any and all of the recipes in this book would have worked for us but Andy decided on "Shrimp and Feta Vermicelli" over "the other pasta dish" (his description), "Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp" (p. 87).   As he put it, "the shrimp and feta had fewer ingredients and I liked that."  After eating his way through an entire serving, he declared "I LOVE this pasta!"  And so there you have it.

Happily, this book did not contain any shrimp for dessert (or worse, in dessert) recipes because we are not the TV show, Chopped and therefore do not do crazy things with our food.  There are limits, people, limits.  But, as the Table of Contents suggests, You Can Bake It, You Can Barbecue It, etc. and if you can't find something yummy to make in any of those chapters then put the book down and walk away. 

And speaking of Chopped and other TV cooking contest shows, I've heard many times that seafood and cheese do not go together and yes, there are some fish that should never be slathered with cheese, but shrimp and feta go well together.  In fact, this recipe is somewhat similar to a favorite we made and remade and remade from Bon App├ętit magazine many years ago.  If you want a simple but impressive and tasty party dish, this is the one!

One final note, I also have another Forrest Gump cookbook – Forrest Gump My Favorite Chocolate Recipes, but Andy and I both agreed that chocolate did not go with shrimp at all (worse than cheese!) and so we will cook from that another time.  In the meantime, start channel flipping as you don't want to miss a minute, not even for the 300th time, of the movie.

PS—The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook contains a lot movie quotes including "Bubba sure knew his shrimp," but not this one from Forrest in response to LBJ's  (President Lyndon Baines Johnson) question "Where were you hit?:  "In the buttocks."  Hilarious!  Well done, Winston Groom!

Shrimp and Feta Vermicelli – Yield:  3 servings
8 ounces vermicelli, uncooked
1 pound unpeeled medium-size shrimp (Ann's Note:  the instructions say to peel and devein the shrimp but you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you just buy shrimp that is already peeled and deveined)
¼ cup olive oil, divided
Pinch of sweet red pepper flakes
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
½ teaspoon crushed garlic
1 (14 ½ - ounce) can tomato wedges, undrained (Ann's Note:  I searched the world over in my grocery story and couldn't find tomato wedges so I substituted diced tomatoes.)
¼ cup Chablis or other dry white wine
¾ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Garnish:  fresh basil sprigs

 Cook vermicelli according to package directions; drain.  Set aside and keep warm.  (Ann's Note:  vermicelli doesn't take long to cook so start it when you're on the final 10 minutes of the dish.)

Peel and devein shrimp.  (Ann's Note:  Those who can, do.  Those who can't (or don't want to), buy it frozen and ready to go!)  Cook shrimp and red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until shrimp turn slightly pink.  Arrange in an ungreased 10- x 6- x 2-inch baking dish; sprinkle with cheese.

Add remaining oil to skillet; add garlic, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until tender.  Add tomatoes; cook 1 minute.  Stir in wine and next four ingredients (spices); simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spoon over shrimp.  Bake, uncovered, at 400F for 10 minutes.  Serve over pasta.  Garnish, if desired.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Cooking to a Degree;" "The College Cookbook;" "Hungry (about cooking for a fraternity)" - Back to School: College Edition

Date I made these recipes:  Labor Day 2014 – Back to School: College Edition

Cooking to a Degree by Mario N. Glasserow and Lois A. Brook
Published by:  Hearthside Press Inc.
© 1972
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, NYC
Recipe:  Super Meat Loaf – p. 156

The College Cookbook (Updated Version) by Geri Harrington
Published by:  Storey Books
ISBN:  0-88266-497-2' copyright 1988
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores, Richfield, MN
Recipe:  Spinach Pudding submitted by Vassar College – p. 96

Hungry:  What Eighty Ravenous Guys Taught Me About Life, Love & The Power of Good Food by Darlene Barnes
Published by:  Hyperion
ISBN:  978-1-4013-2477-3
Purchased at Strand Bookstore, NYC
Recipe:  Orange Balsamic Dressing - p. 66

And so...just like that, summer was over and kids were headed back to school, and as per usual, I had no idea how that happened. This year, we have friends with kids starting college as well as friends with kids looking at colleges and so of course, I felt the need to have a "Back-to-School, College Edition" blog posting.  And while it's heartening to know that college cafeterias are improving their offerings, more and more students are living off-campus and that means they should learn how to cook something beyond "Open package, add boiling water."  I reference, of course, the (now) college staple, Ramen Noodles; back in my day, we ordered pizza.  Actually, back in my day "Mystery Meat" was a staple for at least one dinner offering during the week.  I may not have been the quasi-foodie that I am now, but still, I had standards.

Still, I do not kid myself in the least that any college student will be making these in a dorm or in an apartment but that's okay.  When it comes to meatloaf, you either love it or hate it (I love it), I am pretty sure most people will run away from spinach, particularly a recipe titled "Spinach Pudding," but the salad dressing may actually make it into the lightning round so there's hope for that.  And while each cookbook (I found three!) had some recipes that I might have enjoyed making, I was looking to put together a meal and so there it is.

The first book, Cooking to a Degree, was published in 1972 when I was in 8th grade but by then, my dad had mapped out exactly what high school classes I needed to take in order to get ready for college. There was no "fiddle fooling around" where my dad was concerned.  ("Fiddle fooling around" was a Lou Verme classic.)  After a fashion, when it was obvious that I was never going to follow in my dad's footsteps to become a scientist, he erased all the chemistry and math courses he penciled in previously and replaced them with English and history.  As it is, and this should not be a surprise, I ended up with a B.A. in English and double minors in Spanish and History.  This, children, is called "foreshadowing!"

This cook book is intended to be broad-reaching as evidenced by the tag line that says "Food that tastes great, costs little, & prepares fast!  If you're hungry & helpless in your own first kitchen off campus or off-on-your-own."  I could have used this book during my junior year when I shared an apartment off campus with three other women, but then again, we had our own arsenal of cookbooks, provided to us by our mothers and so were pretty much set and ready to go. (By the by, please notice the correct use of "you are" [you're] and "your."  This Grammar Nazi about goes into orbit every time I see people use "your" instead of "you are.")  

The second book, The College Cookbook, was first published in 1982 and I graduated from college in 1980 so, as they say in horseshoes "close enough."  This version was updated in 1988 and I'd love to know what changed but alas, I do not yet own the original version.

This cookbook is a compilation of recipes submitted by college students and/or colleges themselves but what is more interesting is the list in the Acknowledgment section of the schools that sent recipes that didn't make it into the book, including Harvard and Yale.  Had to chuckle—I bet not making it into the book had to be a first for Harvard and Yale, or as I like to say [of them] the "also ran(s)...."  If you're familiar with horse racing (and who isn't?), "also ran" is the term given to horses who did not win, place or show in a particular horse race, or even come close.  Anyway...moving on....

The recipe I selected, Spinach Pudding was submitted by Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, NY.  For as long as I can remember, Vassar was always pronounced in a clenched-jaw, yet breathy kind of manner – "Vaaaah-saaaah."  Nobody but a rube would pronounce it Vas-SAR with a hard "ar" on the end.  So unseemly. (And by the way, and it's too late now, and not that there's anything wrong with Poughkeepsie, but I just don't associate Vassar with that city.  It just doesn't work.  Now Boston?  Sure.) 

And while Vassar has been co-ed since the late 60's, I still think of it as a women's college.  I don't know why.  Perhaps because we take note of the famous women who attended Vassar more than we do the men.  Actress Meryl Streep was a Vassar graduate (in Drama, naturally) as was Lisa Kudrow (best known for the TV show, Friends), who earned a degree in Biology in 1993. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spent two years at Vassar before transferring, and Jane Fonda briefly attended before dropping out to go live in Paris, coincidentally one of Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite stomping grounds. 

As to the recipe, it seemed to me that only a Vassar girl would call your basic creamed spinach something like Spinach "Pudding" as it certainly wasn't a pudding and even if it was – ew.  I just don't like the image. Chocolate? Fine.  Butterscotch?  Fine.  But spinach?  Noooo. But despite the name,  I did love the spinach and it went perfectly with the meat loaf from the Cooking to a Degree cookbook.  But I can almost guarantee you that most college students would rather die than eat this which is fine because that means all the more for me!  Spinach, creamed or otherwise, can be an acquired taste. (But it's good for you kids, so eat it anyway!)

The third book in this college cooking extravaganza, Hungry, is the memoir of Darlene Barnes who, upon moving with her husband to Seattle, found a job as a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity at the University of Washington.  I found her description of frat life to be everything I remembered about fraternities and more, which is to say, and I know you'll be amazed – tame! (But whoa—frats in the 90's and early 2000's were something else again).  Sure, frats were known for great keggers but I think all of us non-fraternity or sorority college students threw pretty good parties on our own, thankyouverymuch.

What distinguished sororities and fraternities from all of the rest of us lowly college students was the amount of foofing and poofing that went on when sororities and fraternities held their formal parties.  O.M.G.  The sorority members who lived in my dorm were just a-twitter about these dances and spent days getting ready.  Days-as opposed to the mere hours the rest of us put into throwing together an outfit.  (We do not have time to discuss what constituted a "going out" outfit back in the day except it was sad, people, sad.  But sensible:  after all, I went to school at Northern Michigan University where it snowed.  A lot.  You either dressed for the snow, or you didn't. Period.)

Now here's what I want you to picture because it's a far cry from where frats and sororities are now:  the men had long hair, wore aviator glasses (large glasses, wire-rimmed), shirts with huge bow ties and sometimes ruffled tux shirts...or not.  Plaid pants were still all the rage for the guys, something nobody would likely be caught dead in anymore.  The women also had long hair, also wore aviator glasses (because they were cool) and wore gowns that make me shudder (Granny dresses, anyone?) but hey, "time it was, what a time it was, a time of innocence..." (from Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel).  If the hair was long, it spent hours in hot rollers and curling irons and when released, was sprayed with Aqua Net within an inch of its life.  If it was short, it still got a bit of a fluff before going out.  In my opinion, it was all a bit much but then again, I'm more like the character, Enid, in the movie Legally Blonde who scoffed at sororities than Elle Woods who adored them.

Interesting note:  the very cool store – Specs Optical – on 22nd and Hennepin, where I get my very cool glasses, just emailed me about a trunk show they're having featuring a designer who makes wire-rimmed aviators.  They're back! We were all so ahead of the curve...

At any rate, although this book is mostly a memoir, she still included a few recipes and so I decided to make a salad to go with my meatloaf and spinach pudding and it turned out great.  Since the dressing had orange juice and orange peel, I made a salad of mixed lettuce, fresh raspberries and diced apple and it was yummy.  Be warned: I cut the dressing recipe in half and still ended up with too much dressing so feel free to cut it down even more.

All of this talk of college has certainly brought up a ton of memories and I could certainly bore you with hours and hours of stories but I won't.  I will say though, that college life then was pretty tame and uneventful.  The Vietnam War had ended and with it the protests on college campuses all across the U.S. We were still living with dial phones, TV antennas (with the requisite tin foil) and vinyl records (which, of course, are back in popularity now that I've given all mine away.)  The other day, a Facebook page that I belong to posted an old ad for Boone's Farm wine and almost every posting, including mine, talked about how horrible that stuff was and how the hangovers were unbelievable.  Also included in the conversation was Annie Green Spring swill...I mean wine, and MD (Mad Dog) 20/20. The very thought of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill and any flavor of Annie Green Springs makes me ill.  But it was cheap stuff and so we drank it.  Our off-campus dining choices were pizza, more pizza, sub sandwiches and our choice of McDonalds, Burger Chef or Sandy's (local chain).  Our favorite winter activity was to steal trays from the cafeteria and go "traying" (sliding) on local hills.  At the end of the year, our university held an "Amnesty Week" during which students could return all items kleptoed from the cafeteria  like silverware, dishware, and trays, no questions asked. 

And since it was the age of disco, I'll mention that our number one activity was to go dancing at the Alibi Rock Theater.  To this day, I can picture the entire layout – the bar, the disco floor that lit up in different colors, the pinball games, the disco ball, and how everyone lined up along the walls until asked to dance.  The place is still there and it cracks me up to no end to think about how going there was the highlight of our week.  Well, when you're in school in the middle of no where and today's technology is still decades away, you do what you have to do.  "Do bi do bi do. " (A joke about Frank Sinatra for all you youngsters out there).

Now, trust me when I say that the meatloaf is really good, the spinach is something you should acquaint yourself with and you can't beat a good salad dressing.  And most importantly, best of luck, students!

Super Meat Loaf – serves 5-6.  Involvement:  8 min; non-involved:  1 hour
1 ½ lbs ground meat (2 parts beef to 1 part veal and 1 part pork is best)
3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
½ c. Flavored Bread Crumbs (Ann's Note;  I used Progresso's Italian bread crumbs)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. catsup
¼ c. milk
Salt, pepper
1 egg
1 white onion, grated

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix all ingredients with your hands.  (It's the easiest way).  Thorough mixing is essential to make the loaf firm enough to slice; overhandling it makes it too hard.

Shape and place into a shallow 1 qt baking dish.  Bake 1 hour at 350.  Baste once, after 40 minutes, with its own juices.  This will give it a nice crust.

Spinach Pudding – serves: 6
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons butter
 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Cook spinach as directed on package but without adding water.  Drain thoroughly.  Melt butter in a heavy pan; add flour, stirring constantly.  Stir in milk gradually; add seasonings and spinach.  Stir in beaten egg.  Spinach should be well-mixed and well-coated with everything.  Turn into a greased 1 ½ quart casserole.  Place in pan of hot water and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve right from casserole or unmold and serve on warm plate with hot heavy cream (optional).

Orange Balsamic Dressing (serving size not given but likely 2 cups)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Combine the vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, and mustard in a food processor.  Drizzle in the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"We, the Women of Hawaii Cookbook" & "A Taste of Aloha" - Waikiki Chicken and Regency Royals (bars) - celebrating Hawaii's 55th anniversary as a state

Date I made these recipes:  August 28, 2014 (recognizing Hawaii's 55th anniversary as a state of the Union)

We, the Women of Hawaii Cookbook – Favorite Recipes of Prominent Women of Hawaii
Published by:  Press Pacifica
ISBN:  0-916630-47-1; revised edition 1986
Purchased at Talk Story Books, Hanapepe, Hawaii
Recipe:  Chicken Waikiki – p. 123

A Taste of Aloha – A Collection of Recipes from The Junior League of Honolulu
Published by:  The Junior League of Honolulu
ISBN:  0-9612484-0-8; First Printing  September, 1983
Purchased at Talk Story Books, Hanapepe, Hawaii
Recipe:  Regency Royals (bars) – p. 30, submitted by Adele Davis

Well, Alo-ha everybody!  On August 21, 2014, Hawaiians everywhere were (hopefully) celebrating their 55th year as a state of the union.  Prior to becoming our 50th state 55 years ago, Hawaii was a territory of the United States, same as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the (who knew?) Northern Mariana Islands. (The Northern Mariana Islands are located between the Philippines and Japan...sort of.)  Hawaii was always popular:  in addition to being a tourist destination, the military made some of the Hawaiian islands home to military bases (my dad shipped out from Maui in WWII) as well as R&R outposts for Vietnam War military personnel.   Still, life as a territory (technically, a Commonwealth) is tricky as you're governed by the federal government rather than a shared federal and state government and well...there are issues.  Statehood is much better!

So hooray for Hawaii for getting the last fender in on statehood.  Now all of us visitors can move freely about the [tropical] cabin (and from island to island) and this is a good thing.

As to Hawaiian food, I've posted a few recipes in this blog from Hawaiian cookbooks and I think even Hawaiians would be hard-pressed to come up with truly native food.  Early on, Hawaii was populated with Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and Portuguese transplants (to name a few) and their food soon became Hawaiian food.  Over the years, transplants from other countries have just added to the mix.  Additionally, Hawaiian cookbooks published by groups like The Junior League started including (as they all do), favorite recipes for casseroles or appetizers or soups that are definitely not Hawaiian.

So when selecting recipes for this blog post, I tried to find recipes that at least included Hawaiian ingredients and this is why you are getting two recipes containing macadamia nuts.  And let me tell you, these suckers are so expensive that I considered flying back to Hawaii to pick them up at the airport for a lot less money.  As it is, I sourced mine at the Seward Co-Op.  (Note:  Macadamia nuts are not indigenous to Hawaii but rather, Australia. Please store this information for future use in a quiz show.)

So, let's look at Cookbook #1, We, the Women of Hawaii Cookbook.  I loved this cookbook because it contained an entire chapter called Island Recipes.  This is where I found the recipe for Chicken Waikiki which is coated with macadamia nuts.  Other recipes included Miso Soup; Shrimp Tempura; Lomi Lomi; Shrimp Chinese; Fried Mahi Mahi and Korean Ribs.  I could have easily made several of these recipes.  By comparison, I was disappointed in the Fish chapter as almost every recipe called for either shrimp or lobster or shrimp and lobster.   Huh.  I guess the few recipes in the Island Recipes section are it for the time being but that makes sense given that the cookbook was published in 1986.  Now, every menu in Hawaii has several fish options.

Two interesting items of note about this book:  First, "We, the Women of Hawaii," is the name of a club originating in 1946, to protest a general utility strike.  Mrs. E. E. Black, who started these strikes, said "There is nothing a woman can not do, once she makes up her mind," and from that the We, the Women of Hawaii club was born.  Alas, I cannot find any information that tells me whether or not the club still exists.  Maybe it's taken on another name and another purposes—that would be fun.

The second interesting thing about this book is that it used to be a library book and the inside front cover is loaded with due date stamps, as well as the card catalog information using the Dewey Decimal System.  Well, if this doesn't bring me back to my high school student librarian days, I don't know what will!  Love this unexpected added touch.

As to the recipe, we loved it!  The chicken was moist and tender and the macadamia nuts made for a nice crust.  Although the recipe said to "dice" the macadamia nuts, I found it far easier to use my mini food processor to do the chopping.  This recipe is to be served with a chutney sauce and I have to say we were split on this:  Andy wasn't too keen on it, saying that the sauce was too thick.  I thought it was fine although the batch was huge.  No way could we use that much sauce!  I also baked the chicken breasts whole even though the recipe called for small dices that you then loaded onto a toothpick along with pineapple and parsley.  Not sure about that parsley part. 

The second cookbook du jour, A Taste of Aloha, is a compilation of recipes from The Junior League of Honolulu (Junior League: they're everywhere!).  Surprisingly, this cookbook, published three years before We the Women of Hawaii Cookbook, contains a lot of (native) fish recipes.  Not that I'm all that fond of fish, mind you, but I like to see recipes match the location.  Again, it was hard to choose from some of the recipes, especially those in the Luau section ("serves 20" is a bit of a problem), but since I already had the chicken recipe lined up, I went with dessert.  Since I was on a roll with the macadamia nuts, I decided to make Regency Royals, bars made with macadamia nuts and shredded coconut, topped with a orange juice, lemon juice and chopped macadamia nut frosting. 

So here's the thing about these bars:  they're pretty dense and gooey and I'm not sure that was the intended result.  You see, I knowingly and willingly baked them with "old" baking powder.  And here's why:  evil food manufacturer's must still think that everybody is baking themselves silly and so they put things like baking powder into cans that I will never use up "in time," never mind that the cans are on the small side.  And I hate to waste things.  So...I had an unopened can of baking powder in my pantry but I was loathe to open it because I hadn't used up half the can of the stuff I opened 2011! 

So I crossed my fingers and made the bars anyway and they were good if not a bit gooey.  Maybe they are supposed to be that way, in which case, I win!  If not, oh well, we ate them anyway.  Still, this poses a problem:  the holidays will soon be upon us and that is the one time I do bake.  So it's likely that the new can will be opened and then sit there but better that than to take a chance of a complete holiday Armageddon in the baking department! 

Now this book wasn't library stamped like the last one but I loved the simplistic two-color drawings of Hawaiian flowers that separated each chapter by artist, Pegge Hopper.  Shall I just tell you that for the first time ever, I'm tempted to deface my own book and cut them out?  (No, I shall not tell you that.  Forget I said it.)

And with that, Hau`oli la Ho'omana'o! (Happy Anniversary, Hawaii!) 

Chicken Waikiki – serving size not stated
*Requires 30 minutes to marinate
1 lb chicken cutlets (boned – skinned)
¼ c. dry sherry
¼ c. lemon juice
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ c. flour
1 egg (beaten)
½ c. Macadamia nuts (diced)
½ c. dry unseasoned bread crumbs (Ann's Note:  the book said "crimbs."  Ah, the days before spellcheck...)
¾ c. mayonnaise
¼ c. prepared mustard
3 T. chutney (Ann's Note:  I used Major Grey's)

Cut chicken into 1 in. cubes (Ann's Note:  I left them whole).  Place in a bowl.  Combine sherry, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.  Pour over chicken, toss to coat completely.  Marinate for 30 minutes.

Place flour in one bowl and egg in another bowl and combine macadamia nuts and bread crumbs in the third bowl.   Remove chicken from the marinade.  Dip chicken first in flour, then in egg, then coat with macadamia nut mixture.

Place chicken in a single layer on a greased shallow baking pan.  Bake (uncovered) in a preheated oven at 350 until chicken is cooked through and browned, about 20 minutes.  (Ann's Note:  if you are using whole breasts, bake another 10 minutes.).  Skewer on toothpicks with pineapple chucks and parsley.

Serve with chutney sauce.  To make the sauce, combine mayonnaise, mustard and chutney (recipe says to chop the chutney).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Regency Royals – makes 2 ½ dozen
1 cup sifted flour
½ cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Orange-Lemon Frosting
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix flour and butter.  Press into a 9-inch square baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla.  Stir in coconut and nuts.  Spread over warm crust and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  When cool, ice with Orange-Lemon Frosting.

For the frosting:  mix butter and sugar together.  Add juices.  Spread over Regency bars and sprinkle nuts on top.