Friday, January 29, 2010

Food for Thought

Consuming Passions - A Food Obsessed Life *****

Do you read cook books like they're novels? Do you enjoy a good memoir? Do you like to laugh? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Consuming Passions by Michael Lee West should fly to the top of your 'must read' list.
Author West takes us on a guided tour of the southern kitchens that she knew as a child, but she doesn't stop there. With a witty and breezy writing style, she also candidly chronicles her adventures and mishaps in her own kitchen, while sharing treasured family recipes. Stories about making breakfast for her new husband, mastering the art of making her grandmothers buttermilk biscuits, her husband's foray into bee keeping, and the quest for the best egg salad recipe are wonderful telltale vignettes of a true foodie's life.
There are also helpful hints scattered through out the book. We learn how to season cast iron cookware, what type of food to bring to a funeral, how to handle kitchen fires and what to do when you're burned while cooking. The aunts and Mama also liberally dispense advice on men folk, and some of their hysterical observations certainly ring true!
Along the way we're introduced to a wonderful cast of family characters. Aunt Dell, the family 'artiste', Aunt Tempe, renown for her coconut cake, and Ary Jean, West's mama are just a few of the colorful southern women who bring spice and life to this memoir. They're so skillfully drawn, that you feel you know them by the end of the book.
So pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea, (if you don't have a recipe there's one in the book), and settle down for a most enjoyable read. Of course you won't be seated for long, because when you read some of these recipes you'll be on your feet, in the kitchen, and up to your elbows in flour!
This post is being linked to Food For Thought. If you'd like to read more book reviews please just click the icon at the top of this page. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Foodie Friday - Cheatin' Pizza

Meet my new best friend... Yes, it's that cute little Poppin' Fresh, and he brought me a pizza crust! That's a good thing to have on hand when you've had a hectic day, all of a sudden it's 6PM, and you need a quick, easy dinner. (This is especially true when it's really, really cold outside, and a trip to the local pizza joint just isn't gonna happen.)

My husband and I like thin, crisp crust, so first we roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a large, very lightly oiled cookie sheet.
It goes into a hot oven for a few minutes to crisp up a little,
Then my sous-chef, aka: husband, will cover the crust with sauce and toppings. This particular 'pie' is half white, which is a mixture of ricotta, grated pecorino romano and shredded mozzarella. We ran a small clove of garlic through the press and chopped some fresh basil, then tossed those seasonings into the cheese mixture as well.
Now back into the hot oven for about 12 minutes, (NB: After 5 minutes, your house will smell like a wonderful Italian restaurant. It's a nifty bonus!)

Now for the finished product...
Start to finish this only took us 25 minutes, and there's always enough left over for lunch the next day. Best of all, it was piping hot, because it didn't have to take a ride in a cold car and be carried though a 16 degree night.
Please stop by Designs by Gollum and see what else was cooking this week around the blogosphere. Our hostess, Michael Lee, has provided Mr. Linky to guide you on your way...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Waffle Iron give-away!

With just a few minutes of your time, and a little bit of luck, your next batch of waffles could be baking in this hot little number...and it even comes with a box of waffle mix!

Have you seen the waffle iron give-away at Heart and Soul Cooking? Just click on the link to visit Geri and get the scoop on how to enter.

While you're there, you may want to check out the rest of Geri's delightful blog. Some mighty fine things going on there...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Foodie Friday - Simple Shrimp

Here's a tongue twister for you to try - Spectacular Super Simple Shrimp Supper. Repeat continuously while you're preparing this dish, and by the time you've gotten it right, dinner will be on the table! Yes, it comes together that quickly, and it's wonderfully tasty to boot. It's one of our go to meals on a busy day. I really don't have a recipe for this, but I can give you some guesstimates and a game plan for preparation. You can, of course, adjust the amount of any ingredient to suit you or your family's tastes, and you can double amounts for a larger group. Most of the ingredients are probably staples that you keep on hand, and this makes it a perfect meal for unexpected dinner guests.

One 15oz can of plain stewed tomatoes
Olive oil
One small to medium onion, diced
One or two cloves of garlic run through a press or finely minced
A few liberal splashes of dry white wine
Minced fresh parsley
Minced fresh basil
As many shelled, deveined shrimp as you'd like to add (You can also use bay scallops, sliced sea scallops, tiny fresh clams that have been well scrubbed or any combination of the seafoods mentioned)
Hot cooked pasta of your choice - my husband and I prefer linguine
Freshly grated pecorino-romano or parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper

Briefly saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. (Do not let brown.) Add the garlic and saute for another 30-45 seconds. (Again, do not let brown.) Turn off the heat and add a few splashes of the wine...maybe 1/4 cup or so. Turn the heat back on, and add the stewed tomatoes. Break up any large tomato pieces with a wooden spoon. Toss in the minced herbs and a tiny bit of salt, if desired. Give everything a good stir, pop in the seafood and cover. After a minute of two, give the mixture another good stir, cover again and let the seafood cook through...this will only take a few minutes. Turn off the heat, and let rest a few minutes for the flavors to marry. If necessary adjust seasonings, then toss with the pasta. Pass the pepper mill and grated cheese around the table for each diner to add according to personal preference. Crisp garlic bread and a tossed green salad are perfect accompaniments.
I wish I had gotten clams when I made this last week. They make this dish look a little more spectacular when they're sitting on top of the pasta peeking out of their shells, and they add a nice briny flavor to the sauce.

Now please stop by Designs by Gollum and see who else may have an easy entree up their sleeve. Our hostess, Michael Lee, will have a link ready to help you navigate the internet waters.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Food for Thought

The Time Traveler's Wife *****

I tend to avoid reading anything that even remotely resembles science fiction. It's a genre that has never appealed to me. That being said, I was making it a habit to avoid The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I didn't bother reading the New York Times book review. I ignored it when I saw it on the end shelf at the library or in a book store display. I ignored it when it appeared on the best seller list. Need I say that it never appeared on my long hold list at the library? Yet, the book seemed to be presenting itself to me at every turn. Odd, no?

Then one day, it appeared in my hands, carefully wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow. A birthday gift...ughhh. I smiled graciously, did a little ooh-aah dance, said thank you, then tossed it in to a carton of books being packed for our move to Pennsylvania.

It was several weeks before the book surfaced again. I was rummaging through moving boxes stored in our unfinished home. I needed some books to read while we waited in a residence hotel for our house to be move in ready, so I tucked it into my tote bag.

That afternoon, I opened the book and started to read. The Walcott poem was the first glimmer of hope that I had for this being a good read. It appears before the dedication and a prologue. It was the first hook...the prologue was the second. A few pages into the first chapter, I was a goner. A love story was emerging. Sure it was a quirky love story with the time travel twist, but the characters were finely drawn and complex. With each passing page, I was drawn deeper and deeper into their story and their unique problem.

The two main characters are Clare, the wife, and Henry, the time travelling husband. Henry never knows when he'll be subject to moving though time or how long he'll be gone. He doesn't know if he'll be going back in time or forward. He starts popping in and out of Clare's life when she is only six years old. She brings him food and clothing, since he's always hungry after one of his passages, and also arrives naked. Some of the food she brings him is quite odd. She later confesses that she wanted to find out if there was anything he wouldn't eat.

Henry is due to appear on Clare's 18th birthday, and she prepares a picnic 'feast' for him. She doesn't know how to cook, and seems to have no desire to learn, so she puts together a rather odd assortment of prepared items from her parent's larder. It's all part of a seduction plan that only an 18 year old could plot. You'll have to read the novel to see how it plays out...

Henry does know how to cook, and when they meet in 'real time' and begin their adult courtship, he prepares a dinner for Clare's 21st birthday...vichyssoise and salmon. He wants to take care of Clare and cooking is one of his expression of his love.

By the time Henry is 43 and Clare is 35, he has had a glimpse of what the future has in store, and he begins worrying about leaving Clare alone. The couple also have a daughter, and he's concerned that he won't be there to take care of them. In an effort to prepare Clare for her future, he gives her cooking lessons. After Clare prepares her first meal, and realizes that she can now cook, she stares across the table at Henry and thinks, 'Don't leave me.'

I was rereading this book when the Food for Thought meme came about, and I'm now happy that I was. It was the perfect vehicle for me to join in the fun.

And just a closing thought...the perfect book can be like an abiding true love. You can be narrow minded and refuse to allow it to enter your life, but if it's meant to be, it will somehow find you and endure the test of time.

Please click on the Food for Thought button at the top of the page. It will take you to Once in a Blue Moon where our hostess has supplied a Mr. Linky connection to help you travel to other sites celebrating food and the written word.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Foodie Friday - Muffin Madness

Baking muffins may not be the way to keep that New Year's resolution to lose weight, but it's certainly keeping my kitchen warm during the terrible spell of cold weather that has been invading the hills.

Last week I made a batch of French Breakfast Puffs, which are far and away my all time favorite morning goody. An ordinary, plain muffin becomes spectacular when dipped in melted butter, and rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I limited myself to 1 1/2 of these darlings, but it wasn't easy! On a good morning, I could polish off several of these in record time.

This week I tried a 'new' savory/sweet treat. The recipe for Bacon-Cheddar muffins has been languishing on a note card in my recipe box for such a long time, that I now have no idea who gave it to me!

A sweet muffin is studded with crumbled, crisply fried bacon and a smattering of sharp cheddar. My husband really enjoyed them, and they were definitely tasty, but I think I'd prefer these with less sweet and more savory. An extra strip of bacon, a little more cheddar and less sugar would be more to my liking. Have to admit, they did photograph well though, in spite of the fact that I'm having camera problems...

You can find the recipe for the French Breakfast Puffs at The Pioneer Woman. If you're one of those rare mortals who have never been to her blog, you're in for a real treat. She's one heck of a good cook and also just published a new cook book! Simply click on the link, and you too can become addicted to these tasty little morsels. I'm gonna hold back on the Bacon-Cheddar muffin recipe until I play with it a bit. I'm thinking it needs a little tweaking.

Now scoot over to Designs by Gollum, and see who else has been firing up their ovens to keep their house warm. Michael Lee is our hostess for Foodie Friday, and she has Mr. Linky up and running.

BTW: I've got a great dieter's tip to share. Go ahead and make that recipe that's on the forbidden list, then find victims, (excuse me, I meant to say something more like friends, family, co-workers,) with whom to share. You'll be surprised how quickly a basket of warm muffins can disappear!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Foodie Friday- Soup and Bread to beat the cold...

There's nothing better than a steaming bowl of soup to take the chill out of your bones, so this week I whipped up a batch of Hearty Mushroom-Barley. What can be better than this, when the thermometer is headed to the single digits???How about adding a homemade loaf of herbed french bread that's still warm from the oven? It complimented the soup perfectly!
I discovered the bread recipe in the booklet that came with the bread machine that my husband insisted I own. I loathed the dang thing until just recently, when I started using it for the initial mixing, kneading and rising. Then I shape the loaves outside of the machine, pop them into my old bread pans and set them up for the last rise the way I do for my traditional recipes.
The results are much more satisfying. The crust is now nice and crispy, and this method gives me a more aesthetically pleasing loaf without the hassle of hand kneading or constantly monitoring the temperature for a perfect rise. Now that I've achieved a certain amount of peace with the Breadman, I'll be using it more often...on my terms, of course!

You can find the recipe for the soup on The Learning Channel's website or simply click here. I did add 1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms that had been soaked in boiling water for about 1/2 hour. We love mushrooms, and these imparted a smoky, rich, flavor. (Don't forget to add the water in which the mushrooms were soaked. It's loaded with flavor.) I also added a small clove of minced garlic, and left out the scallions. They just didn't appeal to me!
Now for the bread...
If you have a bread machine, you can follow the instructions for your unit until the shaping stage. Then simply shape, set to rise in a greased 10"x5"bread pan until doubled, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes until done. Couldn't be any easier!

Ingredients: for a 2 LB loaf

Water 80ยบ F 1-1/2 cups
Olive Oil 1-1/2 TBL
Salt 2 tsp
Sugar 2 TBL
Dried Herbs, crushed 1 tsp
Garlic, dehydrated, 1/4 tsp
Garlic, powder 1/4 tsp
Bread Flour 4 cups
Active Dry Yeast 2-1/4 tsp
Select French Cycle
(Note: I skip the dehydrated garlic and substitute a few shakes of dehydrated onion. For the herb mix I use Italian seasoning, rosemary and parsley.)
For more recipes to take the chill out of the winter weather, please visit our Foodie Friday hostess, Michael Lee. You're sure to find a recipe that will warm up your kitchen and your soul.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Foodie Friday - Simple Food for the New Year

We were on the road after Christmas. Went to visit our grandchildren in New York, and then went to the Sight and Sound theatre in Lancaster to see the Christmas show. Lots of fun, but very tiring, so my husband and I had a small New Year's Eve celebration at home. Minimal cooking was the order of the day, so we bought a few prepared goodies...a round of brie, some cured meats, a jar of taramosalata, and a large loaf of artisan bread.

We followed that up with lobster tails, risotto ala milanese, and asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

For dessert there were chocolate cannoli from one of our favorite Italian stores on Long Island. They package the shells and filling separately, so they don't get soggy. That's a good thing when you drive them a few hundred miles.

I was so lazy that I didn't even take pictures of the dinner. (I also dozed after dinner and never got this post done!) We just sat to table and enjoyed!

Hope all of you had a stress free New Year's Eve, and that 2010 brings you many blessings and much joy...

Please stop Designs by Gollum and say Hi to our hostess, Michael Lee. Bet there's some fancy foods on display this week, and you'll enjoy the array.