Monday, August 17, 2015

"Tropical Fruit Cookbook" - Hawaiian Sunset Salad

Date I made this recipe:  August 21, 2015

Tropical Fruit Cookbook by Marilyn Rittenhouse Harris; illustrated by Charlene K. Smoyer
Published by: University of Hawaii Press
ISBN: 0-8248-1441-X
Purchased at Hennepin  County Used Library Book Sale
Recipe:  Hawaiian Sunset Salad – p. 70

People, at long last, it got stinkin' hot in these parts, with the temperature and the humidity heading up in the upper registers.  About damned time!  Still, it felt rather tropical outside and so what better thing to make than this tropical salad?

This book amused.  One should not be fooled into thinking that "tropical" equals "exotic" because most of the fruits listed here are ones we eat regularly:  avocados; bananas; grapefruit; lemon; oranges and so on.  And as I found, some of the less-popular fruits like passion fruit or guavas, are hard to find unless you live in the tropics in which case, jackpot!  My husband and I went to four grocery stores before finally and almost finding guava at Lunds & Byerlys.  I say "almost" because naturally, the store was out of guavas that I needed for the recipe and wouldn't have them in until the following week – maybe – and so I Googled substitutes and it recommended strawberries or pineapple; I used strawberries. So I'm afraid I cannot tell you all about guava and that's a damned shame but our schedules were such that it was now or never for the recipe.

The thing that sold me on the book though, was not necessarily the recipes but the illustrations by Charlene K. Smoyer.  I don't know who she is but I love her renderings. Alas, her illustrations are not sold separately, making me contemplate getting a second book just so I can deface it by removing and framing some of the artwork which I know, sounds horrible but how else am I going to get that artwork on my walls?

As to the recipes, most sounded really good but I was in a salad mood and was particularly swayed by the author's note (regarding the salad recipe): "In Hawai'i, many people watch sunsets carefully, looking for a "green flash" on the horizon as the sun's ball of fire sinks into the beautiful, blue Pacific.  This salad, combining green, gold, pink, yellow, and red, carries with it the memory of a Hawaiian sunset." 

I have been to Hawaii four times and while I have never seen the "green flash," I have seen some spectacular sunsets.  And since I love Hawaii, I thought the least I could do is to make this salad.  And by the way, and speaking of green and colors, I have seen the Aurora Borealis ("northern lights") a couple of times in the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota and that is impressive.  And I've heard wolf howls, happily from a distance.  One does not find wolves in the tropics and for this we are thankful.

So anyway, the recipe:  it was serviceable but it didn't float my boat, primarily because I felt something was missing in the dressing.  Although the author suggested using macadamia oil, I was not in the mood, especially after my guava search, to go track that down.  Had I done so, I would have likely thought the dressing was good.  As it is, it was just olive oil, pepper, minced kumquats and sesame seeds.  The author suggested I could use lime zest instead and I think I would have been happier with that.  And by the way, kumquats are like little mini oranges.

And as long as I'm being picky, the Chinese pea pods were bland and needed to be snapped in half as they were just too big to eat on their own and the water chestnuts are just silly.  Honestly, unless they are in a casserole, slathered with cream of mushroom soup, there is just no need to add water chestnuts to anything.  We added chicken because yes, this was a dinner salad, but Andy would have liked it more if I had marinated it beforehand.

All in all, this wasn't a bad dish but it wasn't a "nailed it" one either.  I think it could be good if you substituted a few more things and/or just selected another recipe like Lychee Champagne Punch (p. 834) or one of the many chutney recipes made from tropical fruit.  They sky is the limit in terms of recipes but you may have trouble sourcing some of the ingredients and that's a shame.  I had guava many years ago and would have liked to reacquaint myself with it but alas, 'twas not meant to be.


Hawaiian Sunset Salad – Yield:  4 servings
3 cups Chinese pea pods
2 guavas, unpeeled, deseeded, and diced
1 carambola, ("star fruit") thin star slices
½ cup sliced water chestnuts
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
3 cups coarsely chopped watercress
4 tablespoons macadamia or live oil
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
2 kumquats, minced or 2 tablespoons lime zest
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Optional: The addition of 3 cups cooked chicken cubes turns this salad into a meal

Ann's Note:  If you cannot find guava – and believe me, it is not easy to find – Google says that you can substitute strawberries or pineapple.  Also, "carambola," is often called "star fruit" at the grocery store.

Steam or microwave pea pods to crunchy but tender.  Cool.  Mix dressing ingredients in a salad bowl.  Toss pea pods and all remaining ingredients with the dressing in salad bowl.  Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

"Cooking for Kicks - The Sport of Tailgating" (the Minnesota Kicks was a former name of Minnesota's pro soccer team) - Sausage 'N Cheese Dish

Date I made this recipe:  August 13, 2015

Cooking for Kicks – The Sport of Tailgating – Recipes of sport stars and fans by Dottie Dekko
Published by:  Sprague Publications
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Sausage and Cheese Dish – p. 91 – submitted by Carl and Sue Nipp (part owners of the Minnesota Kicks, a Minnesota soccer team from 1976-1981)

Well so...hmm.... People, I don't know what to make of this recipe and that's a first for me!  It's a sausage and cheese "dish" that is in the entree section and yet the instructions say to eat it with corn chips.  Seems like that makes it an appetizer but what do I know?

But let's backtrack, shall we, on why this book?  Simple...sort of.  In order to talk about this book, we need to discuss professional soccer in Minnesota.  Ready? 

From 1976-1981, Minnesota had a professional soccer team, the Minnesota Kicks, thus the title of the cookbook.  The Kicks played outdoors at the old Metropolitan Stadium (Mall of America was built on that former site).  After they folded, they were replaced by the Strikers and when they folded, the Thunder and when they folded, the Minnesota Stars FC ("football" club which is what everyone else in the world calls soccer except for the U.S. = dare to be different!).  The Stars eventually changed its name to Minnesota United FC and that's where we are today.   If you knew all this beforehand, give yourselves a large pat on the back because I didn't.  I might have gone to a Kicks game after first moving here...or not.  Can't recall. 

Okay, so, as with every single sports team in the country and here in Minnesota, the Minnesota United FC needs its own stadium.  It's only fair, you know, seeing as how all the other kids teams got a stadium.  The Minnesota Vikings are almost done with the monstrosity they are building down the road from us so there's that (I am a Packers Shareholder so 'nuff said) and then several years ago, the Minnesota Twins baseball team got a stadium and this year the Saint Paul Saints minor league baseball teams got a stadium and even the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota got a new stadium so now it's "We want a new stadium," from the soccer team - all day, every day.

The problem, as you can imagine and as we will not discuss, is funding.   Okay white lie, let's have a little discussion because I have a feeling, as with most of these stadiums, that I am going to be the one partially funding this thing and that irks. Nothing against soccer—excuse me, "football" (or, as the Brits say, "footie") but I'm not much of a fan of any of the professional sports teams playing in this state and so I have issues with paying for it, especially when they are owned by much wealthier people than I, but I digress.

So with all the news swirling around soccer, I thought I should pull out this cookbook – Cooking for Kicks – and give a recipe a go.  Plus, I thought it would be a good time to acknowledge the accomplishments of the U.S Women's Soccer Team about a month ago when they won the World Cup.  And then, don't you know, in an incredible moment of timing, MY Green Bay Packers played their first pre-season game against the New England Patriots (happily beat them) on the same night I made this recipe.  This book is subtitled "The Sport of Tailgating" and wow, do the Packers have a lock and load on tailgating or what?  (Never mind last night's game was played in New England).

So all signs pointed to "yes" and I thought I had a recipe all picked out just from the name alone – "Boom Boom Brown's Tailgate Tacos" (p. 21) but then I looked and saw that this recipe was submitted by Bill Brown, former Minnesota Vikings running back.  And since making that dish would be tantamount to Packers treason, I let it go and it's a shame because it sounded good but I could not make a Vikings dish – retired Viking or no retired Viking – on a Packers game day. (Nothing personal, Boom Boom.)

And so I flipped through the book, seconds before leaving with my husband to head to the grocery store and decided to make this "dish" instead.  But as I said above, the intended use of this "dish" is unclear and so while Andy ate it with the suggested corn chips, I opted to cook some rigatoni and use it as a pasta sauce.  And that's because to my mind, it was a pasta sauce rather than a dip.  The whole thing was so unclear, as is the answer to the question of "Who is going to pay for a new soccer stadium?"

Here's the thing:  if this "dish" is a dip, then as dips go, this sort of fails.  If you ask me, and you didn't, if you are going to make a dip using sausage and cheese, then I suggest making an "American favorite:" Velveeta + sausage + Rotele tomatoes.  Now that is a cheese dip!  And if this "dish" is more of a pasta then leaving out the beef bouillon will make the dish less salty and more authentic.  (And speaking of the bouillon cube, the recipe didn't say whether or not to add the cube as is or to add water to it to make a broth and then add it to the dish.  I added it "as is.  As always, incomplete directions are my pet peeve!)  And if this "dish" is something else entirely, then I give up!

The previous owner of this book starred a couple of recipes that might also float your boat:  "Cheese Ball" – p. 33; French Dip Sandwich – p. 35; "Tossed Chinese Spinach Salad – p. 37" or "Corned Beef Sandwiches" – p. 39, just to name a few.

And so there it is, your soccer/football/tailgating recipe to help you celebrate and embrace "your" team.  

Sausage 'N Cheese Dish – serves 6
1 lb. hot Italian sauce (bulk or links cut into bite size pieces)
1 c. chopped onion
1/3 C. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (16 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 c. tomato juice
4 oz. mushrooms
2 beef-flavored bouillon cubes
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Corn chips

In a large skillet, brown sausage, drain.  Add onion, green pepper and garlic, cook and stir until tender.  Add tomatoes, juice, mushrooms, bouillon and seasonings, mix well.  Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.  Stir in ½ c. cheese, heat through.  Serve with chips and remaining cheese.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"The Harley Biker's Cookbook - Big Bites for Hungry Bikers" - Sara Liz's Garlic & Honey Chicken & Dial 911 Mashed Potatoes - for the annual Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, SD

Date I made these recipes:  August 7, 2015 – Celebrating the annual Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, SD

The Harley Biker's Cookbook – Big Bites for Hungry Bikers by Owen Rossan (with Biker Consultant Tod Rafferty)
Published by:  Chartwell Books, Inc.
ISBN: 0-7858-1531-7
Purchased at Har Mar Mall Antique Show
Recipes:  Sara Liz's Garlic & Honey Chicken – p. 38 and Dial 911 Mashed Potatoes – p. 53

So every year for the past 75 years folks, Harley Davidson rider from all over the planet congregate in, of all places, Sturgis, SD for a week-long Harley Rally.  I have no idea why Sturgis is the watering hole but it is so there you go.

Now while I know a few people from MN who have attended this shindig, I do not keep this event on my calendar mostly because I don't own a motorcycle, never mind a Harley.  But this year I didn't have to keep track of the dates because my favorite local radio station, 89.3 FM – The Current, did it for me.

This station (which you can and should stream online if you don't live in these parts), is my favorite of all stations because they play a wide variety of music (almost never the Top 40), do not have commercials (it's public radio-owned so you'll hear brief info about sponsors but that's it), and have very fun segments like The Morning Show's 9:30 Coffee BreakTheft of the Dial and a No Apologies segment where you might hear anything from disco to – and I'm not kidding – The Osmond Brothers.

The 9:30 Coffee Break is genius:  the station selects a "theme" for the morning and then encourages listeners to email or call with musical selections to fit that theme.  On Friday, August 7, for example, the theme was "a) songs named after a city or b) from an album with a city title."  Other times, if a famous singer is having a birthday, they'll say call in with that singer's best songs.  But on Monday, in honor of Sturgis, they asked listeners to call in with songs involving motorcycles or motorcycle riding.  And here was the lineup:

Steppenwolf – "Born to Be Wild"
Yo La Tengo – "Speeding Motorcycle"
The Shangri-La's – "Leader of the Pack"
Jimi Hendrix – "Ezy Rider"
The Hopefuls – "Motobike"
The Allman Brothers – "Midnight Rider"
The Byrds – "Wasn't Born to Follow"

I pretty much hate mornings but I tell you what, there's nothing like a little Steppenwolf to put a gal in a good mood for the rest of the day:  "Get your motor runnin', head out on the highway...."

Now just because I don't have a motorcycle, doesn't mean I don't have a great Harley Davidson story because I do.  And how convenient that I also have a Harley Davidson cookbook, right?  There is no such thing as a coincidence, my friend.

Many years ago, I worked for a data processing company whose headquarters were in Milwaukee and so we ended up having a lot of Milwaukee-area clients.  Milwaukee is also home to Harley Davidson.  As these things co, a co-worker, Mary, and I ended up having to visit a Milwaukee client during Harley Davidson's 90th birthday celebration and luckily, we were able to (just barely) find a motel that still had rooms available because the city was overrun with Harley riders.  In fact, picture your favorite freeway and then picture it with wall-to-wall motorcycles and riders all in black, stretching for miles and miles and miles and you have what we encountered.

So we got to our hotel and I pulled up in the car port area so we could check in when a couple rode up on their – of course – Harley Davidson motorcycle.  And I noticed that they were speaking French and commented on that to my co-workers.  You should know that I speak some French although I'm not even close to being fluent. Anyway, my coworker then said "Say something in French" and so I said "Bon jour" and the French couple started laughing, as did I.  I mean, she didn't ask me to have a discussion on international politics, she just wanted me to say something in French so I did! My co-worker was not as amused as we were:  "You know what I meant!"  "Oui, Mari!"

So we got checked in hauled our luggage to the elevator and then waited along with six fairly big guys all decked out in black and leathers.  We were not in the proper colors at all, but no matter.  So the elevator opened and several of their friends got out, dressed for the pool and we got in and how we all fit – six big guys, two not-so-big gals and several pieces of luggage and equipment - I don't know but I do know they made sure Mary and I were all situated and that was very nice. 

We ran into these same guys a bit later at the bar along with about a billion of their close, personal biker friends, and the scene was hilarious.  Every single person except us was in black and leather.  Mary and I, of course, had on our best "going to the hotel bar to unwind from the trip" jewel-toned summer outfits which all but screamed "Which of these is not like the others?" but what could we do? Our excuse, and it's a good one, was that it was 1993, jewel tones were all the rage and black was only worn for funerals or if you lived in NYC which we did not.  Now, of course, I wear black quite a bit but not biker black so there's that and I'm pretty sure my leather jacket would be too prissy so we'll leave it at that.  And of course, I don't own a bike.

The next day we went to the client's office and got to talking about the Harley anniversary and Mary mentioned that she was under orders to stop and purchase some commemorative t-shirts before we left Milwaukee and that seemed like an easy task.  But we learned that the shop would be closing before we could get there and so we decided, with the client's blessing, that I should make a separate journey to the Harley store to purchase Mary's items along with stuff for half the staff who were also too busy to go.  And so armed and dangerous with a wad of cash, I set off to the Harley store.

People, again, let me paint a picture and the picture I am going to paint for you is NOT black.  The company car we were driving at the time was not only a "mom car" i.e. station wagon but it was powder blue.  And that is the car I had to drive to the store.  And I took up about four parking spaces when I got there which I'm sure didn't please the rest of the people waiting to park and get in line at the store but what can you do?

So I parked said "mom car" and commenced walking to the store.  I was in a beautiful raspberry-colored suit (my favorite summer suit ever), complete with jacket, skirt,  matching accessories, pantyhose and of course, high heels.  And so I clacked my way to the end of the line and stood there, once again sticking out like a sore thumb among the rest of the shoppers who again were all in black and leathers.  (I hope you're sensing a theme here!) Thankfully, not one person pointed at me and said "What the F are you doing here" but if so, I was determined to assume my best "bad-ass-biker-chick-on- break- from-my-day-job" persona just in case. 

When I got back to the client's offices, of course I regaled them with the story and to this day, I still chuckle to myself when I think of the picture I must have made at that store.  It was probably one of the more memorable client visits I have ever made and so last Monday, as soon as my radio station mentioned Sturgis, I knew what I had to do and that was to pull out the Harley Biker's Cookbook and get to work.

There were lots of good recipes in this book and I had a completely different menu in mind but then Andy took a look and decided that we should go with the chicken and then since the chicken recipe mentioned that the dish would go well with the Dial 911 Mashed Potatoes, how could I resist? (We passed on the peas this time around.)

Should you want to pass on the chicken and go with something else, this book is divided into the following sections:  "Breakfast & Brunch;" "Appetizers;" "Meat Dishes;" "Poultry;" "Fish & Seafood;" "Vegetables & Salads;" "Sandwiches;" "Dressings, Sauces & Marinades" and "Desserts and Snacks."  Several recipes make liberal use of jalapeno peppers and so I passed on those but plenty of options remained and in fact were in hot contention for a while such as "Claude's Blue Cheese Soup;" "Thunder Grunt Stuffed Mushrooms;" "Torque Master Meatloaf" and "Mario's Meatball Sub."  But the man decided that he was in a chicken kind of mood so there it is.

This chicken recipe is easy and as they often say on Food Network's "Chopped" was cooked perfectly.  The chicken was very moist and the garlic did not overwhelm the chicken at all, probably because you cook it with garlic slathered on it for 20 minutes and then pour on the honey and bake for another 20.  Simple and delicious.  And the 'taters?  OMG, delicious!  Absolutely delicious.  I mean, how can you go wrong with butter and cream? 

And that concludes our culinary "ride" commemorating 75 years of the Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota!

Sara Liz's Garlic & Honey Chicken – serves 2 to 3
10 chicken pieces; thighs and drumsticks work best buy any cut pieces will do
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp honey
Chopped chives, to garnish

Salt the chicken pieces and rub them all over with the garlic.  Let sit for about 15 minutes.

Put the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, making sure that the garlic is still on the pieces.  Make sure the pan is big enough so that you don't have to stack up the pieces.  Roast in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes.

Take the pan out and drain off any liquid (not the garlic) that has accumulated.  Pour the honey over the chicken making sure that each piece is well covered.  If you need more honey for this, then use it.

Roast for 20 more minutes or until the chicken pieces are crisp and shiny brown.  Put on a warm platter and sprinkle with chopped chives.  Serve with mashed potatoes and buttered green peas.

Ann's Note:  Please note that it does not say to actually cover the roasting pan you are to use with the cover itself and so I left it off for the first 20 minutes, then hedged my bests and put it on for the second 20 minutes and then because my potatoes were not quite done, I lowered the oven temp to about 170 for maybe 15 minutes and the chicken was perfect!

Dial 911 Mashed Potatoes – serves 4
2 pounds potatoes
½ cup heavy cream
6 Tbsp melted butter
Cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper
Freshly chopped parsley

Peel the potatoes and boil until they are soft.  Ann's Note:  Maybe if I boiled potatoes all the time, I would know how long "until they are soft" means in terms of minutes but I don't so I didn't.  So I looked it up on the internet and the general consensus is:  peel and quarter potatoes, place in a pot and fill with cold water about an inch past the potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on either medium or low for 20-25 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, warm the cream slightly.  When the potatoes are cooked, drain and put them back in the pan over a low heat.  Mash the potatoes using a potato masher or a grater.  Do not use a blender or food processor unless you want glue.  Ann's Note:  You cannot go wrong using a potato ricer instead of a potato masher or grater.

Slowly add the melted butter and beat into the potatoes.  When well blended, add the warm cream in the same way.  Keep stirring until smooth and creamy.  Sprinkle in a few shakes of cayenne pepper.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

Author's note:  This dish takes a lot of salt.  Ann's Note:  I added some but not too much and that was fine by me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"The Joy of Ice Cream" - Brown Cow (a mix of root beer, milk, chocolate syrup and ice cream) for National Ice Cream Month

Date I made this recipe:  August 3, 2015 – a belated celebration for National Ice Cream Month (July)

The Joy of Ice Cream by Matthew Klein
Published by:  Barron's
© 1985
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Brown Cow – p. 135 (root beer + milk + chocolate syrup + ice cream)

Well, as the character, Maxwell Smart, of the TV show, Get Smart, would say of (observing) National Ice Cream Month:  "Missed it by 'that' much."

As always, we were busy and so as per usual, we were just a tad behind on making something to observe National Ice Cream Month (who knew?) in July.  As in the entire month of July. But seeing as how I tried out the chocolate syrup for this recipe for the 4th of July and just now made another batch for this recipe and I think that counts as "observing" and/or celebrating (not really).

And I should tell you that since I have at least six ice cream cookbooks, I probably should go out and buy an ice cream machine but instead, I keep looking for loopholes (I should have been a tax preparer) and I found it in this recipe for a Brown Cow, a tasty beverage featuring ice cream.  Still, I'm seeing an ice cream machine purchase on my horizon and this is probably why I've been stockpiling Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons so I can strike at dawn take a road trip to my nearest store.

Now in an amazing case of timing, just last week, Bon App├ętit magazine had an article about how to make ice cream by hand (i.e. not using a machine) and while it was interesting, it also would have taken forever to use their method and time is one thing we do not have in the summer, as evidenced by the fact that I am always weeks behind on making my summer dishes to celebrate various events.  But if you wanted to check it out and give some of the ice cream recipes in this book a whirl, go right ahead because they all sounded yummy.

This cookbook, one of several in a series of "Joy of" cookbook published by Barron's (and not to be confused with Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking), includes recipes for ice cream flavors; sundaes and parfaits; sodas and drinks; cakes, molds and bombes and toppings, sauces and syrups. Since I was in a nostalgic mood, I decided on the refreshing Brown Cow ("How now, brown cow") containing root beer, ice cream, chocolate syrup and milk.  And I have to say, the first thing that came to mind upon reading that the recipe called for the milk and root beer combination was of Laverne DeFazio's (character on Laverne & Shirley) love of Pepsi and milk.  That concoction made me go "ugh;" this one made me say "yum!"  Not included in the beverage selections though, was one of my childhood favorites, a Boston Cooler, made with Vernors Ginger Ale and ice cream.  And I'm here to tell you right now that it has to be made with Vernors Ginger Ale.  Has to.  If you can't find it, don't bother making it!  But if you do, the recipe is simple: fill a glass with ice-cold Vernors, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you are done!)  (Vernors Ginger Ale is a Michigan product but I can buy it here in Minnesota at Lunds & Byerlys.)

So here's how you make a "How now" Brown Cow and it's really delicious, easy and screams SUMMERTIME!

Brown Cow – makes 4 sodas
6 Tb. Chocolate Syrup (Ann's Note:  an easy recipe for home-made syrup follows)
1 cup cold half-and-half or milk
2 chilled bottles (12 oz. each) good root beer
4 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate syrup
6 oz. semi=sweet chocolate
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup water

Place ½ tablespoons of chocolate syrup (*see recipe instructions below) into each of 4 tall soda glasses.  Add ¼ cup half-and-half or milk to each and stir to blend the syrup.  Add about half of each bottle of soda to each glass, then stir soda briefly and gently with a long-handled spoon.  Top each soda with a scoop of ice cream and serve at once.

To make the syrup, melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler until melted.  Add the evaporated milk and stir until blended.  Take off the heat and add the water.  Done!