Tag Archives: food

Theme vs. Similarity

My brother has me hooked on lectins, learning about them lately. We both have diseases that could have been caused by them. Pretty much every food is prohibited on a lectin-free diet. My downfall is nightshades. Aside from tobacco, which I do not use, what would I do without tomatoes, potatoes, corn and squash, eggplant, garlic, hot peppers and others? I’ve built my culinary life around these ingredients.

If you read a book about lectin they’ll tell you very few fruits and veg, no meat, fish and no dairy, no wheat, no legumes. Come on, what can we eat?

Very early this morning I watched a cooking show where the star showed a meal with freshly-picked zucchini blossoms with a ricotta filling, asparagus with a mousseline, salmon with another hollandaise-based sauce and berries with sabayon. Death by cream and eggs.

Years ago our family used to go abroad for holidays and we went to one restaurant that served the same thing every year. They were crowded and had to make a lot of things in advance but to get soup in a bread bowl (so they didn’t have to do dishes) plus every course overpowered by bread was a bit much.

One year we did our own thing. I remember a photo as pseudo-cuz and we presented home-made whole chickens and fixings to the crowd. Now I remember Mom saying that we don’t need to go out to dinner in the middle of no-where as I can cook better than any restaurant in town.

By that time, she could do so. I live in a city and have traveled the world and still cook better than any restaurant in the neighborhood. Yes! Sometimes we like different flavors so taste what we like and sometimes leave town for convenience or the need to try other foods. I have itineraries but my husband will not take me anywhere until I can walk a certain distance without arthritic pain. Europe is the initial goal.

I like varied menus. No way on Thanksgiving with 60 of my husband’s folks watching “The Game” am I going to control that menu, but I can do mine for family and friends. Bread and dairy are ways to control costs.  When I cook for a small group at home I do not have those restaurant constraints. I spend time creating a menu that is appropriate for the people we will entertain. As a mentor Julia Child would say Bon Appetit! Dee

ps We have fancy dinner service for 18 and a table for four. We have a folding table and linens for everything. That’s me.

 

 

Family Dinner

Tonight was an awful night. I lost my claddagh ring and feel naked without it. Love, friendship and loyalty. I’ll check my shirt and sweaters in sunlight because the crown nicks everything so it’ll probably be on the floor or carpet.

Years ago it was a rule, I was in college (on break) and my siblings were as young as seven, to have dinner together every night. I fear that families do not do that these days. It’s just my husband and me, and the dog, and my husband is usually on his cell phone or texting or on his laptop dealing with other people and not us. Even though he is here writing a book I see the old dog and now Snowflake Deux more than him.

In former years we had to do a “how was your day” routine. One day someone introduced “let’s rate Mom’s meals!” She was devastated. Dad hated her orange chicken and beef stew. They were not things he grew up with in a Teutonic household where he spoke German all his childhood and Grandma taught Mom how to cook. Then a certain someone got her a lifelong subscription to Gourmet magazine and she started making things called “health soup.” And a chicken salad with peaches that she served an honored man known for a geodesic dome for his 86th birthday and their 62nd wedding anniversary.

Dad said afterward that he didn’t like fruit with his meat. Whoops!

Mom’s gone nearly nine years and Dad died over the holiday season last year. I barely knew grandma except she used to sing me Bye, Bye, Blackbird as a lullaby before she passed when I was one year old. Dad was a musician and much more, I’ll have to teach myself that song . I just need the lyrics. Maybe not. I just learned it was a Nazi song.

Don’t worry, even though Mom’s mother died earlier than Dad’s and I do not remember her at all, I’ve another grandmother, my husband’s dear Nanny. Yes, she interviewed me before I married her eldest grandson and she made me an honorary “grand.” It is a pleasure to be the sixth and to watch her “great grands” grow up and marry.

We share food with about 60 people every Thanksgiving at Nanny’s and my m-i-l and everyone cooks and we have good and much food. And now the “greats” provide music as well from time to time, that is when football is not on the television.

I’ve made Orange Chicken twice in two weeks. My husband is a Texas beef and potato guy so it’s taken me years to get him to eat chicken. Mom used to use orange juice concentrate. Here’s my version.

Orange Chicken a Deux (for two)

Two chicken breast cutlets, pounded thin and seasoned

Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and zest of an orange from which you will use its’ juice for sauce

Olive oil to  sautee the chicken

When chicken is just cooked remove it to a plate. Add the juice of 1-3 seeded oranges to the pan and reduce. Add a pat of butter, taste for seasoning and place the chicken back in to warm.

I serve it over warm Israeli couscous cooked in chicken broth, and a veg. Last night he made a jicama salad with fresh orange juice and I ate a few heirloom cherry tomatoes. He’s brilliant but not that great in the kitchen in any manner, especially the knife department, I call it “log salad.”

That’s the way it goes in Dee-Land. Nearly 16 years and I got him to eat chicken, Israeli couscous, and jicama? He’s even a cheese snob now, asking whether for day-to-day use on a cracker or toast is three-year or five-year better? Once a year I go back to my childhood taste memories and buy individually wrapped American processed cheese slices. Mom would never allow us individually wrapped. I make grilled cheese on hearty whole wheat bread. I also have ginger ale on hand, for tummy issues and because it was the only soda we were allowed to have as kids.

Never, ever rate your parents’ meals. It is a recipe for disaster. To Orange Chicken and my beef stew (later). Bye, bye blackbird, Dee

 

 

What Not To Eat

on a date? First date at age 16, my parents made fun of me for years saying whomever it was would show up in an old red pickup truck. Guess what? Yep.

He had to come in and meet the family. He was 18 and I was 16 so my parents scoured the newspaper to find a PG movie. They settled on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a great movie I still recall. Then, the roads had frozen and Main Street was an icy mess so he did “donuts,” taking me home, 360 degree spinouts because all the smart people stayed home and didn’t drive in this kind of weather.

The next weekend I was asked out, same guy, to a nice restaurant. I didn’t want to get anything with tomato sauce because it could get on my outfit, whatever it was. Seventies, probably horrible. I loved salmon fillets so I got the salmon steak. I didn’t know where the bones were or how to extricate them or the skin. Ask me years later and I can skin and bone a salmon steak in no-time, place it yin and yang, toothpick together, season and pop on the grill. At sixteen, I had no clue. Cute guy went to Florida for Easter break and went out with a cheerleader for two years before coming back to me, for years. He married another cheerleader after I called off our engagement years later.

Don’t eat anything too spicy. If you’re going to an event or business meeting don’t get sunny side up eggs. Choose scrambled, they’ll brush off your suit if you accidentally spill a drop of yolk.

No tomato sauce. Steak and baked potato are OK but watch out for pot roasts and stews. Do not ever eat shell-on crab or lobster on a date unless you’re in the terroir, dressed for it and know what you’re doing. Example: shorts and t-shirt on the beach in Maine.

Basically, know what you’re doing. If you’re in Italy have your Bolognese. In Greece, eat the eel and octopus (I have textural and familial issues with both so I do not partake). When in France, traditional French cooks remove everything then place it back as garnish. It’s like Mom cutting up your meat.

In Scotland stay away from burgers. They look and taste like hockey pucks and are bloody expensive. Go for the salmon and mussels. Their pizza is great as well.

I should not have named this what I did. Try any kind of meal you’d like, in any city or country. I have, and it’s part of how I learned how to cook, and eat. There are just certain things, like tomato sauce, that can ruin your suit for a meeting, or a salmon steak you don’t understand that leaves you starving, to think about. Cheers and good eating! I just finished a toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon! Dee

I Bought Him Flowers

My husband, a small bunch of pink and yellow tulips in vase overlooking the lake. He flew in Saturday afternoon for a steak and baked potato dinner.

Easter Sunday we took it easy, I’d gotten a rack of lamb the day before and marinated it in olive oil, salt and pepper, sprigs of fresh thyme and leaves of rosemary all day. I forgot the garlic, the entire head was in a bowl elsewhere.

Simple roasted rack of lamb, boiled red potatoes with butter and seasonings, and a salad with his favorite vinaigrette, no, not mine from a half dozen acids including several vinegars and fresh lemon and extra virgin olive oil, he wants bottled ranch dressing so he got that one.

It was a good weekend. Perhaps Texas Chili and my Ten-Minute Lasagne (on the site) next weekend. As a young girl or young adult you could always see me reading cookbooks and helping out if I was allowed to do so.

Thanks to all who helped me learn how to cook, from a very young age to caterers to college (I cooked for all my roommates) to work, work, work, then cooking schools. I thank everyone for contributing to my education.

Recently unable to sleep or really read because of an eye issue I’ve been up at night watching/listening to The Mind of a Chef, brainchild of Anthony Bourdain, and Michael Pollan’s concise and interesting distillation of his book Cooked.

It is fascinating to learn more about cultures, flavors, icky things I may never like to eat (not on the show but I never had haggis in Scotland) but Chef Pollan brought something to light. Many folks I know never cook a thing. I cook three meals a day plus feed and take my dog out, another thing people hire out.

Yes, my sink nearly fell below because the glue that held it together was not strong enough. Why? It’s a double sink and I use it many times a day and do hand-wash certain special dishes, large pots and pans and wash my hands. In the years we’ve been here no-one has seen this happen, because no-one cooks.

Dear Michael Pollan,

I like the way you pull people in instead of push them to feed their family healthy, home-cooked foods. For nearly thirty years I’ve shopped the outer aisles of the grocery store. I barely know my produce folks because they change out all the time but I bring my Texas Chili (Pedernales riff, of course no beans) to my butchers. Yes, I’ve a meat grinder on my 28 year Kitchenaid and at my age move it across the kitchen to put on the grinder.

I graduated PKU, Peter Kump’s which is now ICE.

I pick out all my 4# of hand-chosen meat (sale days are great) and take it down and do a Texas grind. The rest of it is up to the onions, garlic and spices. You may want to look up Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili that was served in 1962 for 5,000 guests at the Ranch west of Austin. The guest list included JFK. If you look up the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Museum it’s on the site, or just Google it.

It’s very generic as a recipe because they don’t have what we do today and I’ll never use “chili powder,” so make my own from Penzey’s. This recipe was the most requested White House document in 1962 before JFK was killed.

Sharing this information is important to our future. Cooking made us human. Shopping at a grocery store for microwave or ready-made foods is ok a day or two a week but it probably means you’re at the TV and spouse is online and the kiddos never got to have dinner with their family.

Caring for one’s family is most important. Don’t tell your kids how many hours you had to work this week.  Tell them you’re having what I’ve done for kids, MYOP night. I make pizza dough in advance but if they’re not my kids (we don’t have kids) I always have them make a ball of dough before they get tired to take home and rise in the frig for tomorrow.

Kids roll out their own dough and top their own pizzas with anything from caramelized onions and anchovies, tomato and plain mozz, pepperoni and it runs the gamut from sauteed spinach, roasted garlic………

 

Pizza, Twinkies, Chocolate Milk

I was an athlete in high school. Captain of the gymnastic team for both years until I graduated with a small scholarship. All the “lunch ladies” knew me and I greeted them daily. Above was my meal of choice.

A slice of pizza, package of Twinkies and a pint of chocolate milk. There was a juke box in the cafeteria and we used to listen to The Beach Boys. At home I bought and listened to Beatles, Bob Dylan, Three Dog Night, Dave Mason, Bad Company, Joan Baez and others.

In college they promised gymnastics and never delivered. There, in the caf, I ate chocolate cereal with chocolate milk for breakfast until I moved to the apartments and cooked for many others. Only dinner, no chocolate. I should have learned how to make a proper mole. Perhaps all these years later I’d have it right, but not right enough to serve Chef Rick Bayless.

Baking is a non-starter for me. My mother and sisters always excelled at that area of expertise. I chose cooking. Of course I make a berry trifle that guests love and certain ones ask for every New Years’ Day, and have kids over to make graham cracker/vanilla yogurt/berry parfaits for their family. I also have kids over for pizza parties and the dough is done but they have to roll it out and have pre-made toppings to consider and before bedtime they must make their own dough to put in their own bowl and place in their frig to roll out tomorrow. Bread pudding, I can do that. Mincemeat tarts.

I do love cooking, probably for over fifty years. I peeled carrots when I was eight and placed them in ice water in the frig. They curled up. What a great science experiment! Papa was there that summer. We called him “summer Santa” because I think he bought me and my sister roller skates that year, the kind you clip on over your sneakers. Mind you, we lived on a highway via a 1/4 mile dirt road and we were not allowed to use them in the house. Oh, because I made them, he called them “suicide carrots” as he did anything else I tried.

Neighbors had an old dog, Tory, who used to come visit. He wasn’t allowed indoors but I’d feed him. It took him a day to come down the 1/4 mile drive, he’d stay for six days then walk back. On our childhood adventures with our neighbors I’d tell them Tory was with us and it was OK with them, they knew.

I was never a horse lady, but am the dog lady and have been since I was six months old. And I’m a cook and planning meals for this weekend. Dee

Absolutely Not!

We live in a very nice building with a great view and wonderful staff. I heard they were having a company-wide party this evening.

I am one of the only residents who cooks, so I make them food year-round. Today I asked if I made a trifle, would they like it for the holiday party tonight?

Absolutely not! These were the best words I could have heard today, second to my husband telling me he loves me. Why not? This is staying right here for the eight of us, not 100 ravenous party-goers who will eat it up in two minutes!

I strayed from past years and made my own version with panettone, raspberries, blackberries and I made my own whipped cream with a touch of vanilla and cognac. I hope they like it. I sweetened the deal with a pretty bowl full of Satsuma tangerines. I should have soaked the panettone in some tangerine juice. Next time.

Sometimes they like everyone’s Aunt Dee! A new neighbor I’ve cared for and am still healing from taking care of him is puppy H. We saw him in the hall last night. He jumped up on me and I fended off his needle-teeth bites until I looked down at my hands and both were covered in blood. It was a tiny snaggletooth, teeny bandage overnight and it’s good as new today. Badge of honor. Do I get the Silver Star for that? Nah, he’ll be a great dog with training and out of pain from teething.

Anyway, the next time someone says “absolutely not” wait for the next sentence. They may just say your food is so good they won’t share it! Happy holidays. Dee

Home

Every website has a “home” but we have a home. A real home, not one on a blog or somewhere in cyberspace. We have a home.

Our home does not trick us into “contact us,” it’s just home where you make dinner and breakfast and take out the dog. Hang out in your pj’s and watch old movies.

Home to me is my best friend, my husband, flying in for the weekend and hanging out with me and our dog. I make him great food and we relax and enjoy the company and he gets to sleep in. I’ve got the dog, out, food, bed. I’m awake now, for good as she’s already got my side of the bed. Now that’s home!

Tomorrow I’ve some lovely potatoes to roast. Also a beef Carbonnade with onions, bacon and beer. I’ll look for some nice tomatoes at the market for a salad.

I miss him. It’s only four days this week. Seven months last year, I do miss him but just told him on the phone that I sleep much better when he’s gone! He inadvertently touches the dog, she jumps off the bed, comes over to my side and whines to get up. Me, Otis the Elevator Operator gets up, lifts her back and I get no sleep.

That’s home. Perhaps I’ll try pancakes or corn cakes for breakfast Saturday. Sausages sound good. Or my corn pudding with chorizo, a hit everywhere. I still don’t have menus together for Saturday and Sunday night. We’ll see. After all, we’re home. Re-runs, anyone? Food and movies. Dee