Monday, July 25, 2016

"The Northern Exposure Cookbook" (based on the TV show of the same name) - Ruth-Anne's Meat Loaf

Date I made this recipe:  July 19, 2016 – The heat wave is coming, so let's go North to Alaska! (1960 song sung by Johnny Norton)

The Northern Exposure Cookbook – A Community Cookbook from the Heart of the Alaskan Riviera Based on the Universal Television Series "Northern Exposure" Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey – by Ellis Weiner
Published by:  Contemporary Books
ISBN: 0-8092-3760-1; copyright 1993
Purchased from Barnes and Noble Used Books Online
Recipe:  Ruth-Anne's Meat Loaf – p. 71

And so as is usual and customary, we are now having our annual one-time-a-year-whether-we-need-it-or-not heat wave.  And as always, I remain amused by the Armageddon that has resulted.  You'd think we never, ever experienced such hot temperatures, such the is picture of doom and gloom.

I blame much of this hysteria on local meteorologists.  Whereas once upon a time they just reported whether it would be hot or cold, rainny/sunny/snowy, now they scare the crap out of people reporting the "heat index" in the summer and "wind chill" in the winter. 

In the winter, every weather report tells us the actual temperature – e.g. -10, but oh my, "the wind chill index is going to feel like -50." "Do not go out unless you have to," they report.  "Do not!"  "You may die out there."  "It only takes a minute for flesh to freeze" (I kid you not, that's what they say.)

And so schools close because apparently parents who could normally dress children for  -10 lose the ability to dress their kids for -50 wind chill. 

People who could normally make it to work on time also lose their minds and feel like they have to stay home to warm up their cars when in fact, most "modern" cars warm up just fine in this weather.  The car doesn't know the temperature but the owner sure does.

And folks, it has been a long time since we've had temperatures in the -20's and -30's but the rules for going out in the winter hold no matter what the cold weather brings:  dress in layers.  Wear a hat, wear comfy boots (they can still be fashionable), and wear a jacket.  Avoid bikinis and shorts until the temperature hits 50 degrees in March or April (at which time, I kid you not, you will see people breaking out the summer gear.)

In summer, we have the dreaded and dangerous heat index.  The "heat index" is a thing to be feared.  Where once upon a time we survived just fine if it got hot out (let's say 85 degrees or warmer), now, with the heat index pointed even higher than the actual temperature, we have chaos.

"The temperature today is going to be 91 but it FEELS LIKE 101."  Stay inside.  Get nothing done.  Do not look at the sun.  Take cover!  Take cover!

I will concede that dangerously low temperatures and ridiculously high temperatures can be fatal to kids and the elderly (especially the heat) but honestly folks, this is Minnesota we're talking about here.  Only newbies to the area don't dress correctly and that once included me.   Although I came from snow country (lots and lots of snow), I was unprepared for the bitterly cold negative temperatures when I first moved here and when I missed the bus one cold night and had to wait in boots that were not suitable for cold, I got a minor case of frostbite on my toes.  Lesson learned.  If you take a moment to throw fashion principles aside and dress appropriately, you too, can survive these extreme temperature fluctuations.

Which brings me to Alaska.  I have only a small handful of states to visit in my lifetime, including Washington (state), Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming (I think.  That state may have been a "drive-by" (drive-thru) state), (inexplicably) Alabama and Alaska.  And let me be very clear on this:  while I may, someday, visit the remaining states, there is no way I'm willingly (or unwillingly) going to Alaska.  If I had a bucket list, it would not even make the top 1,000 cut.  

Why? Well for one thing, even though Alaska is often warmer than Minneapolis, it is still a pretty chilly place as some areas really get down into the subzeros, making Minnesotans look like a bunch of pussies for complaining about -10. Plus, they have that perpetual sun problem in the summer and almost absolute darkness in the winter and that just doesn't work for me.  Messes with the mind, it does.  Finally, there's the Nature "problem" and by "problem," I mean there's just too much Nature there for me.  And at the risk of repeating myself, my life mantra is – I kid you not – "Nature is NOT your friend."  I don't do wilderness treks to "Nature," "I don't like to encounter Nature in its natural habitat, and I will be just fine if I don't have a close encounter with a polar bear, thank you very much!

And yet, the praise for Alaska just keeps coming.  "Oh, it's gorgeous, you should go there!" 

"No."  "But..."  "No."  "No, no, no."  Between the weather and the sun/no sun and your overabundance of Nature, it is not for me.  There is nothing fun about a moose on the loose.  Nothing.

Unless, of course, you are watching the opening credits to the hit TV show, Northern Exposure, where a moose strolls through town, all nonplussed about what it sees or doesn't see.  I like "TV" moose as no harm befalls a viewer who is safely ensconsed behind a TV screen.  And can I just say that "Moose and squirrel" i.e. Rocky and Bullwinkle, was one of my favorite TV cartoons?  It was.  (I also adored the evildoers Boris and Natasha.) (Can't forget to mention Mr. Moose and his ping pong balls from Captain Kangaroo!)

And so since TV moose are good moose, you shouldn't have any difficulties cooking from The Northern Exposure Cookbook, based on the hit TV show (1990-1995) of the same name.

The stars of that show, including the moose on the loose, were all residents of the Alaskan town named Cicely, a town that became home to Dr. Joel Fleischman, a newly-minted (and very neurotic) Jewish doctor who moves from New York to tiny town Alaska to work off his medical loans.  In my family, we likened Dr. Fleischman to my brother, (Dr.) Tom, who also paid off med school loans by moving to Gallup, New Mexico to work in a low-income clinic. Unlike me, Tom very much likes Alaska and he and his wife visited there a while back.  Tom loved that TV show, a show that showcased how Dr. Fleischman was such a fish out of water compared to the town's inhabitants who were (naturally) quirkier than all get out. 

In addition to "Fleischman," we have Maggie, the bush pilot; Maurice, who owned half the town and was a former astronaut; Officer Barbara, his no-nonsense law enforcement girlfriend;  Ruth-Anne who owned the local store; Holling and his much younger wife, Shelly, who own and operate the local saloon; Chris ("In the Morning") who is the local DJ and who likes to philosophize about everything, and Ed and Marilyn, two native Alaskans who added much humor to the show.  Ed is the resident jack-of-all trades who is pretty intelligent despite coming across as a dim bulb, and Marilyn is Dr. Fleischman's receptionist who is very quiet, almost eerily so,  but when she speaks, she speaks volumes. Other characters filled in the blanks and some newer series regulars appeared in later seasons, but this was our core group.

Out of this entire group, my least favorite character was Chris "In the Morning," the local radio DJ, played by actor John Corbett.  And I have to say, but I did not warm to his character, Aidan, on Sex and the City, either. (She was meant to marry Big folks, not Aidan.  Period.)

The nod for favorite though, has to go to Fleischman (Rob Morrow) as his attempts to fit his New York personality into small town Alaska were hilarious.  And runner-up for favorite went to Maurice Minnifield, played by actor Barry Corbin, especially after he started going out with Barbara, a serious-as-a-heart-attack officer who gave Maurice (a run for his money. Barry Corbin also appeared years later in the TV show, The Closer, as Clay Johnson, father to the protagonist, Brenda Leigh Johnson.  Loved him in both roles.

So that's the recap about the show and about Alaska and now we turn our attention to the cookbook. But I must say, if you were expecting quirky food, or "native" foods of elk, moose, bear, etc., from this cookbook to go along with this quirky cast of characters, you'd be disappointed (although there is a recipe for Mooseburgers –substitute ground beef).  Instead, we are treated to "regular" food like casseroles, lasagnas, and even a Jell-0 salad, the salad compliments of Joel Fleischman.  Almost all recipes are prefaced with a story, and in the back is a complete list of recipes and the episodes in which they appeared.  I like that.

One observation though:  While I am not saying that food provisions that we enjoy here in the Lower 48 don't get delivered to Alaska, I do feel that securing some of the items needed for these recipes back then (1990-1995) might have been a bit of a stretch.  Blue cornmeal?  (Page 34) Risotto? (Page 128).  I do recall though, that shopkeeper, Ruth-Anne could order almost anything and so I'm going with that.

Today's dinner came down to two choices:  Shelly's Hot Dog and Cheese Casserole (page 78) and Ruth-Anne's Meatloaf (page 71).  Both sounded great, but I to try Ruth-Anne's meatloaf and I was not disappointed. (Ruth-Anne's character was always pretty chill (pun intended) and made me laugh.)  I made half a recipe which was just right for two people.  If, as a kid, you ate your meatloaf with ketchup and mustard, then you'll be happy to know that both of these condiments are included in the meatloaf mix.

This then, concludes my I am not going "North to Alaska" even if it is one of the hottest days of the year.   Unfortunately though, I cannot console myself watching old episodes of Northern Exposure because they don't air on cable – yet.  Life can be so cruel....

Ruth-Anne's Meat Loaf – Makes 6-8 servings (Ann's Note: Also divides well)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup milk
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped white onion
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons catsup
1 ½ pounds ground chuck
1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs
3 strips uncooked bacon

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat egg lightly in a large bowl.  Add salt, pepper, thyme, mustard, milk, celery, onion, and ¼ cup catsup, mixing ingredients well.  Add chuck and bread crumbs and mix well until thoroughly combined.

Transfer mixture to a 9 ¼-inch loaf pan.  Spread the remaining 2 tablespoon catsup over the loaf and top with bacon strips.  Bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"June Roth's Indoor/Outdoor Barbecue Cookbook;" "Martha's (Stewart) American Food;" "The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook" - 4th of July food

Date I made these recipes:  July 4, 2016

June Roth's Indoor/Outdoor Barbecue Cookbook by June Roth
Published by:  An Essandess Special Edition
© 1970
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Richfield
Recipe:  Coney Island Hot Dogs – p. 46

Martha's (Stewart) American Food by Martha Stewart
Published by:  Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-307-40508-1; © 2012
Purchased at Barnes and Noble, Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Classic Potato Salad – p. 49

The BEST of Home Economics Teachers BICENTENNIAL Cookbook – 1976 – Favorite Recipes® A Limited Edition
Published by:  Favorite Recipes Press
© 1976
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington [MN] Crime Prevention Association annual June sale)
Recipe:  Red-White and Blue Salad (Jell-O) p. 39

Every year since I can remember, class reunions are held in my home town of Munising, Michigan, on the 4th of July.  That may seem odd to those who live in a city where reunions are held at various times of the year, but it makes sense for my small hometown as that it often the one time of year when people return home to be with family and friends.

This year was my 40th class reunion – the class of '76.  That year was a big deal as our country celebrated its bicentennial and how nice of it to coincide with my graduation year. ;) There are times when I keep thinking that my graduation and that interloper, the bicentennial, were just yesterday but alas, forty years is not "just yesterday."

As is usual and customary in my home town, there is a parade that is always well attended (my parents were frequent attendees, long after my brother and I left home) and in the early years of my childhood, it was usual and customary for a vast majority of the parade units to be surrounding area drum and bugle corps including our very own Silver Echoes.   Oh how I wanted to be a Silver Echo.  So wanted to be part of that color guard; the color guard was most cool. But alas, I was just a tad too young to join and by the time I got around to being of age, they disbanded and were replaced by the Castle Rangers who were fine but not the Silver Echoes.  Not.

The (Wm. G.) Mather High School band also marched and that was a fun thing.  We may have been a small, Class C school but we had one fantastic school band.  Although I hung out with plenty of band kids, I was never in a marching band, not in high school or college and that's a whole other long story best told over cocktails. ( I can though, play a fine Mickey Mouse March on the chimes!)  So just after I got married, I took adult clarinet and saxophone lessons and at the urging of a good friend of mine (who has since passed away), I joined the same community band that she helped found – the Calhoun-Isles Community Band.  I played with them for 20 years, although we shall use the term "play" very loosely (I played the 3rd clarinet part  which is about all I could handle),"retiring" 2 years ago after serving also as the President of the Board of Directors.  But alas again, this concert band most decidedly did not march anywhere except to and from the parking lot for our Tuesday night rehearsals, especially on cold and dark winter nights ("Double time!")

No parade is complete without floats and the "dignitary" cars although I'm told that there are hardly any floats these days in the Munising parade and that's sad.  I posted some parade pictures my dad had taken in the late 60's/early 70's on Facebook so my classmates and I could reminisce about the good old days.  In previous years, each graduating class had its own parade float but these days, those classmates walk the route handing out candy to the kiddies.

After the big parade, there was usually a pet parade and then in the afternoon, our volunteer fire department held a water fight, the gist of which was to battle each other in a water tug of war before turning the spray on the crowd to cool us off.  Not that it was ever really hot in my home town when I was growing up, but getting sprayed was a big deal.

At dusk, everybody gathered at Bayshore Park to watch the spectacular fireworks that were shot off from the boat dock at Munising Bay into Lake Superior. Those fireworks were always top notch and are honestly better than the ones Minneapolis used this year, go figure.

So there I was, within a month of my reunion and the 4th celebration, when I found The Best of Home Economic Teachers' Bicentennial Cookbook and could not let the opportunity to use it pass me by.  My love of the cooking portion of my Home Ec classes is a big reason why I have this mega book collection, now numbered at 2, 276 cookbooks, and no, I did not plan it so that the '76 in the collection number coordinated with the bicentennial although what timing, right? 

Now when I say that the cooking portion of my Home Ec class was something I loved, I cannot and will not say the same about the sewing portion of our program.  Because, and forgive me this word folks,  when it came to sewing, I "sucked."  (And by the way, while the 7th and 8th grade women took Home Ec, the boys took Shop.  Talk about a sign of the times.)

All 7th and 8th grade females had to take Home Ec where we practiced our kitchen skills and sewing skills—or lack thereof.  I was pretty darned handy dandy in the kitchen, despite the fact that my mom considered that her territory and only her territory, but until that class, I never sewed anything.  Meanwhile, all my other classmates were already quite skilled and everyone but me had sewn before.  I did not think it a good sign when I broke a needle practicing on a paper pattern.  And I managed to mangle more bobbins than "Carter has pills" (and old advertising slogan that only those my age or older will get.)

And so naturally as these things go, instead of sewing easy aprons, pot holders or tea towels like 99.9% of the Home Ec classes across the country, my 7th grade project was to make a sleeveless blouse with interfacing and the 8th grade project was to make a skirt with a zipper and waistband.

All righty then!  Nothing like starting out with the most difficult projects ever.

Worse:  when were finished our projects, we had to wear them to school that day in what I call the Walk of (Sewing) Shame.  All the other gals proudly paraded their outfits as they well should have whereas  I tried to hide in the bathroom.

Reason?  Well, let's might be because I got a D on the blouse as it wouldn't even have qualified as a Project Runway reject.  The interfacing did not flatten out as it should, I had stitches showing everywhere, the fit was off and so the whole thing was bloody was awful.  The only thing saving it was that it was dark navy blue so it hid every single on of the million boo-boos I made. 

The second project – the skirt – looked good on paper but the execution thereafter was most problematic.  Denim was the "it" fabric at the time so I wanted to make a denim skirt but alas, folks, there is denim as in Levi denim and then there is "fake" denim as used by Home Ec students.  Mine was the later.

Still, I was doing okay until this happened:  I put the zipper in (just fine) but the substitute teacher the next day told me it was wrong so I had to take it out.  Then when the regular teacher returned, she told me that was wrong so I had to take it out again.  And when I put it in for the final time, the fabric around the zipper was trashed plus the zipper was about ¼ inch away from the waistband.  And just when things couldn't get any worse, the skirt fabric got bunched up and caught in the sewing machine, causing a huge snag to occur on the back on the skirt and why?  Because it wasn't real denim!

And this is what I wore on the Walk of (Sewing) Shame, Round 2.  And needless to say, both projects ended up in my dad's fire barrel as was right and proper for such abominations. 

But the cooking portion?  Oh my yes – nailed it!  To this day, I still have the recipe cards I wrote for all the food we made those two years.  In seventh grade, we made all breakfast items and in 8th, soups and salads for lunch.  Some were quite good (potato soup) whereas others were just so kitsch – broiled grapefruit with a Maraschino cherry in the middle.  I think I made those at home exactly once and then I was done with that.  (I am not a big grapefruit fan.)

So tying it all together, that cookbook was just perfect for the day, with Martha Stewart and June Roth filling out my 4th of July menu.

As always, the bicentennial book had a lot of good recipes making it hard to choose, but these two were easily and automatically DQ'd (disqualified) from the lineup:  "Creamed Brains in Potato Cases" (I am gagging as we speak) and – and I am not kidding –"Squirrel Jambalaya." Oh. Dear. Lord.

Folks, maybe it's me but really Home Ec teachers?  Really?  THIS is what you have your little darlings in Home Ec class make?  No.  Just say no.

In the end, I settled on the Red, White and Blue (Jell-O) salad because it fits the holiday theme and it's "safe."  You cannot really go wrong with Jell-O although as you will read, making mine was a bit challenging (but only a bit so don't fret).

This year's entree—if hot dogs can be considered an entree – came from June Roth's Indoor/Outdoor Barbecue Cookbook.  Roth has the distinction of writing a cookbook – Let's Have a Brunch - with one of the worst looking covers ever: a two-tired ham-salad "cake" that is frosted with something (mayo?) to make it look like wedding cake, that is then further "decorated" with peas and lemon halves to make it more...festive?  That was a definite "no" for me but happily, the recipe I made for my blog (June 30, 2007) from that cookook, "Cinnamon Raison Brunch Bread," was delicious.

You should know that the recipe for Coney Island Hot Dogs is really a recipe for a Coney Island sauce and not really the hot dog itself.  A Coney Sauce is almost like a chili sauce or a sloppy joe filling  and that is a flavor profile I love. And I love that she gives both an indoor and outdoor option for those who may not have a grill handy.

Finally, there's Martha.  Martha's American Food cookbook features all kinds of recipes from coast to coast and the pictures and recipes are glorious well because of course they are. This is Martha Freaking Stewart after all.  Martha is no slouch when it comes to beautiful and mouth-watering photos.

While every single recipe looked fantastic, I was on a mission for potato salad because you can't really have a bona fide Fourth of July celebration without potato salad, not in my book.  But I am not sure Martha and I see eye-to-eye on what constitutes "classic" potato salad.  My mom used potatoes, onions, celery, salad dressing (yes, I know, but that was what she used) and mustard, but not relish, and the whole thing was topped with hard-boiled eggs and radishes. Delicious.  Mom also garnished with fresh parsley from our garden.

Martha's "classic" involves mayonnaise because of course it would—Martha likely never, ever substituted salad dressing for mayo because she's Martha.  My mother did because her doctor advised her to way back when in order to lower her high cholesterol (which ran in her family.  And by the way, my mother was quite petite and skinny so "who knew?").  As these things go though, salad dressing is almost 10x worse than egg-based mayo but nobody knew that at the time.  At any rate, Martha also adds cornichons instead of pickle relish as well as scallions.   This is so very Martha, is it not? But I'm not sure cornichons is a standard addition to a "classic" potato salad.  Southern cooks, for instance, seem to favor pickle relish in potato and macaroni salads, but sweet pickle relish, not dill or even cornichons.  This recipe was good and it was definitely a "Martha" moment, but if I made it again, I think I'd switch things up and add sweet pickle relish.

So that was the repast and all in all, things worked out except for the following little quibbles:  (Please note, I made half recipes of each one.)
1)     Thank goodness once again for Google.  The Coney sauce did not say which type of pickle relish to add but internet recipes showed that most cooks favored sweet pickle relish so that is what I used in the Coney sauce.
2)     The middle layer of the patriotic Jell-O didn't quite set and I have no idea why.  It might be because I used only one half of the unflavored gelatin since I was making a half recipe.  Some recipes – perhaps this one – don't halve very well.  The entire thing was good but soupy.  Very soupy.  I recommend using a whole packet of the unflavored gelatin.
3)     Potato salad is tricky because you don't want mushy potatoes but you do not want undercooked ones, either.  Martha says to cook for 25 minutes and Martha is probably short by another 15.  The thing is that Martha says to use a medium potato but these days, everything is gargantuan and that's all that you can find unless you grow your own.  Martha may grow her own, but I most certainly do not.  Been there, done that.  If you use a larger potato, plan to add a bit more time to the cooking schedule.

So there you go, everyone.  Some food for the 4th, some food for a bicentennial class reunion and just some good food, period.  Enjoy.

"Oh let us cheer, for Mather High, we want our team to win this game....."

Coney Island Hot Dogs (sauce) – makes 12 servings – from The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook
¼ pound ground beef
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup pickle relish (Ann's Note:  Google "survey sez" sweet pickle relish)
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 dozen frankfurters
1 dozen frankfurter rolls

Outdoors:  Cook ground beef in a medium-size saucepan on the edge of grill, stirring t break up meat into small particles.  Add tomato paste, water, relish, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder, salt, and sugar.  Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Makes about 2 cups of sauce, enough to spoon over 1 dozen grilled frankfurters on rolls.

Indoors:  Make sauce in saucepan on range.  Cook frankfurters under broiler and warm rolls in the oven.

Classic Potato Salad – serves 10 to 12 from Martha's  American Food (Ann's Note:  Even a half recipe made a lot.)
4 pounds russet potatoes (about 8 medium)
Coarse salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 large eggs
1 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon cvelery seeds
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
10 cornichons, cut into ¼-inch dice
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with water by several inches.  Bring to a boil, then add 1 tablespoon salt.  Reduce heat and gently boil until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about *25 minutes.  (Ann's Note: *as noted above, most potatoes these days are pretty large and need more time to cook.  Although the potato surface was tender, the middle needed more time.)  Drain.

Peel potatoes while still hot, using paper towels to protect hands; cut into 1-inch pieces.  Transfer potatoes to a bowl and drizzle with vinegar; let cool.

Place eggs in a small saucepan; fill with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil; turn off heat.  Cover; let stand 11 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and cover with cold water; let cool and peel.  Cut 2 eggs into ¼-inch dice.  Slice remaining eggs into ¼-inch-thick rounds; reserve for garnish.

Combined diced eggs, mayonnaise, celery seeds, and dry mustard in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper, and whisky to combine.  Stir in potatoes, celery, onion, cornichons, scallions, and parsley.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.  Just before serving, garnish with paprika and egg rounds.

Red-White and Blue Salad – Yield:  15 servings or one 9 x 13 pan – from The Best of Home Economics Teachers Bicentennial Cookbook
2 packages raspberry gelatin
2 c. boiling water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (Ann's Note:  I halved this recipe and in retrospect, should have probably used the entire package instead of ½ package as the middle layer did not set very well.)
1 c. cold water
1 c. half and half
1 c. sugar
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ c. chopped nuts
1 can blueberries (Ann's Note:  I used fresh blueberries and raspberries and made a simple syrup to substitute for the canned blueberry liquid.)
To make a simple syrup:
1 ½ c sugar
¾ cup water

As noted above, sometimes making a half recipe does not yield the results you are looking for; I think this was one of those instances.

The first layer of this Jell-O set up fine.  The middle layer did not set up as well and I suspect I likely needed to add the entire package of unflavored gelatin.  If you make this, try adding the whole thing.

As to the blueberries, sure, I could have purchased a can of blueberries at about $5 a can, but this is summer and that means fresh fruit.  So instead of using the canned berries and their liquid, I used about an equal amount of fresh berries and then made a simple syrup and added that instead. 

To make the whole recipe, dissolve 1 package raspberry gelatin in boiling water; pour into 9 x 13-inch pan.  Chill until firm. 

Combine unflavored gelatin and cold water; set aside.  (Ann's Note:  even if you are making just a half recipe, try using the entire package instead of a half package like I did.)
Mix half and half and the sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add cream cheese; beat until smooth.  Add vanilla, nuts and unflavored gelatin; stir until gelatin is dissolved.  Cool.  Pour over chilled layer; chill until firm.

Drain blueberries; add enough water to blueberry juice to make 2 cups liquid.  Bring to boiling point.  (Ann's Note:  if using fresh berries, make a simple syrup and use two cups of that instead of the blueberry juice.  The ratio above of 1 ½ cup sugar and ¾ cup water makes plenty of "juice.")

When liquid is on the brink of boiling, add remaining raspberry gelatin; stir until dissolved.  Cool.  Stir in blueberries; pour over cheese layer.  Chill until firm.

Ann's Note:  So because the middle layer didn't really set correctly, the entire dish ended up kind of soupy but the taste was great. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"Catch 'em and Cook 'em" by Bunny Day - Crabs Creole

Date I made this recipe:  June 26, 2016 – spotlighting the game show, To Tell  The Truth

Catch 'em and Cook 'em by Bunny Day
Gramercy Publishing Company
© 1961
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Crabs Creole – p. 46

In my May 8th blog, I cooked from actress and TV personality Arlene Francis' book, No Time For Cooking.  Arlene was a panelist on the (vintage) TV show, What's My Line, and in that blog, I did a good deal of "reporting" about that show and its sister shows, To Tell the Truth and I've Got a Secret

I also reported that cookbook author, Bunny Day, appeared on To Tell the Truth, prompting me to screech "Bunny Day? My Bunny Day?"  That very name – Bunny – is what prompted me to purchase two of her cookbooks in the first place and there she was, on TV and everything!  When I was growing up, I knew or knew of three people with the name or nickname, Bunny, and it just makes me giggle – still - because it's so cute (and so were they).

So I made a mental note to cook from her book sometime this summer and was actually gearing up to do so when I watched yet another episode of To Tell The Truth, and on that episode, three people claimed to be cookbook author, Eva Jean Schulz, who wrote the book, Shrimply Delicious!  So first I had Bunny talking about fishing (which I gather was an expertise of hers) and her cookbook (Catch 'em and Cook 'em) and now Eva was talking about her shrimp expertise and her cookbook and well, something was "fishy" here, right?  (Pun intended.)

Alas, I already cooked from Shrimply Delicious! (Collectible Cooking – December 15, 2007 – Shrimp and Mango Chutney Canapés that were delicious) as well as from Bunny Day's other cookbook, Crazy-Quilt Cookery (Collectible Cooking - September 24, 2014 - Beef Casserole/Meatloaf), and so that left me with one more from these game show participants:  Bunny Day's Catch 'em and Cook 'em.

But first, one more tidbit that just amused me to no end about Schulz's book, Shrimply Delicious! On the To Tell The Truth celebrity panel that night was the always elegant and witty, Kitty Carlisle who, before beginning her questioning of the panelists, said (dramatically, of course) "Well there's absolutely nothing I love more than shrimp!"   I do so love her.  Plus, she was wearing this totally kick-ass leopard skin stole (with pearls) and yes, I know, PETA will likely be all over me for that but let's remember folks, that back in the 60's, this was the biggest deal on the planet. 

At any rate, Kitty was all excited by the Shrimp Lady and she was all excited about Bunny Day and shrimp and seafood and you should be too! 

I must confess that when I first starting looked through this book for a recipe to make, I thought I might be overwhelmed with recipes for fish and I am not a fish fan.  But hooray, readers, the "Catch" in the title is misleading because the book is not about catching something with a fishing pole but rather "caught" as in with traps (crabs, lobster) or digging (oysters, scallops and mussels.)Except for the bouillabaisse recipe in the last chapter, there's not a mention of fish to be seen and to me, this was a good thing.  (And need I tell you that there is no way I am ever again gutting a fish?)

Had I grown up on the east coast like my father and his family, I might just have gone to a seafood store, gotten live crabs (or lobster or whatever) and just cooked them myself.  Alas reader, I did not grow up on the east coast (although I do visit a lot) and Lake Superior, my backyard, does not yield these incredible edibles so I chose the slacker route and went to Coastal Seafoods and bought a can of crab, already prepared.  As I often say, "Why do for yourself when you can pay others to do for you?"

Aside from the crab meat which pound for pound equaled a couple pounds of beef or a couple chicken breasts (depending where you shop), the rest of the ingredients were pretty inexpensive to buy and the entire thing was really easy to make.  My only complaint, and it is very minor, is that the dish was a little too sweet (i.e. sugary) for me.  The guy at Coastal Seafoods talked me into purchasing a can of sweeter crab meat and that, along with the teaspoon of sugar, and lack of other balancing savory spices, made for a more sweet than savory concoction.  Did we eat it anyway?  Well, of course we did.  But the next time around, I might add a bit of Old Bay or even a bay leaf to try to course correct the sweetness.

The recipe also calls for 4 tablespoons bacon fat and I tell you what, I was positively giddy to discover that Trader Joe's carried a one pound package of raw bacon ends and pieces (of mostly fat) which was PERFECT for this dish.  I used to buy and freeze bacon slices but that didn't work well because we never used them up in a timely manner, but this?  This I will use, especially if the recipe calls for only the fat and not the bacon itself.

So there you go.  "Bunny" and I had a lovely time in my kitchen making this dish and I think you will too.

Meanwhile, I am keeping an eagle eye on the guests on To Tell the Truth because you never know who will pop up. In fact, I was watching one episode (circa 1963) recently where three people claimed to be Australian-born folk singer, Shirley Abicair, who rocketed to stardom after appearing on the BBC.  And one of the panelists claiming to be her was actress Cecily Tyson.  (You should know that Shirley is Caucasian as was the other pretender but Cecily is not.  But this type of mixed panel happens quite often on "TTTT" to throw off the panel.  I've seen them mix men and women, for example, when the "real" person's name is something like Carol (f)/Carroll (m), or Jean (f)/Gene (m)("'Jean'"/Gene, the dancing machine..." from The Gong Show.)

At any rate, so I'm watching the show, right, and I kept thinking "I know that woman"   (Cicely Tyson) but could not come up with her name.  I remembered "Miss Jane Pittman," a character she played in a 1974 TV movie, and I correctly placed her as character Annalise Keaton's mother in the contemporary TV show, How to Get Away with Murder, but beyond that, I was stumped.  And then just as she was asked to give us her real name and what she really did, the light bulb came on and two seconds later she said " My name is Cicely Tyson and I am a student at "the New School" and I was born right here in New York City."  (By the by, the New School is a famous New York university, of which, the drama program tutored up and coming (and now famous actors, like Ms.  Tyson) in the craft. 

So get out there and Catch 'em and Cook 'em folks (ha—as if), and do some cooking and if you have time, perhaps a little walking down memory lane by viewing some vintage and current TV shows or movies.

Crabs Creole – serves 4
2 cups crab meat
1 large onion, chopped
1 crushed clove garlic
½ cup chopped green pepper
4 tablespoons bacon fat
1 16-ounce can tomatoes
½ cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Sauté the onion, garlic, and green pepper in bacon fat until tender.  (Ann's Note: I threw in the celery too because I wanted mine soft.) Add everything else and simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve on rice.