Sunday, May 29, 2011


I got the Boy to dash out to the new Goodwill Outlet with me this afternoon and it was...interesting. I suppose it's worth checking out regularly to find the occasional item. It is certainly close by (in the old Famous-Barr warehouse just off Vandeventer).

I'm a sucker for a little vintage suitcase. This cream-colored Starline was irresistible.
The Boy found this book for me.
I wish I knew the original intention of this bunny, but I'm thinking toothbrushes. And how could I resist a teeny Show-Me cream pitcher?
A Lake Tahoe commemorative cup and saucer? Why yes, I think I will.
A set of little gold-painted saucers.
More gold saucers.
A silly little porcelain ring holder.
And finally, an old nightstand to put in the foyer for the Boy to collect all the junk CDs he brings home. A bargain at $4.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm not sure why I've never been to G&W Sausage, but since there was a Groupon and I finally went today. I was hot and thirsty from a ridiculously humid and too-warm day at work, but I really wanted some sausages. When I got there, the parking lot was surprisingly full. The place was hopping, with a substantial line and it did seem that it took a good deal of time to deal with each customer. I wasn't terribly troubled by that, since I needed to look around and decide what I wanted to get anyway. Finally it was my turn and I scored whom I had already deemed to be the best employee choice (a tall guy my age-ish). I chose my first item (2 lbs. of the above pictured Hungarian bratwurst) and while the gentleman was packaging those luscious orange sausages up, he asked me a question that I didn't quite understand. He gestured behind me and I turned to see another customer drinking a can of Busch beer (I thought I had glimpsed another person holding a beer but it didn't seem likely so I dismissed the thought!) So he asked me again, "Would you like a beer?" Well, hell yes, sir, I would love a beer! The guy next in line took one too and we toasted our good fortune. I almost left the store with my can, but luckily I realized that's kind of illegal.

So, grilled sausages, cottage fries and salad for dinner.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More pizza...

I wasn't completely satisfied with Sunday's attempt at a Pi-style deep dish pizza, so I tried again on Monday. I used half cornmeal/half flour for the crust and I think this time it was too much cornmeal so I will need to do more adjusting in the future. Or perhaps I should use olive oil to grease the pan...

At any rate, this edition was filled with Italian sausage, sauteed with onion and yellow peppers. I used a combination of mozzarella, a pizza cheese mix and some Monterey jack. I only had crushed tomatoes at hand so I did miss the chunkier texture I had in the first pizza, though the flavor was essentially the same.

An inside view:
Further experimentation is needed and will be done, but considering that hot weather is arriving, it may be saved for the fall as this non-central ac house doesn't do so well with baking in the summer.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I fell in love/With the pizza girl/Now I eat pizza everyday, oh - Attemping my own Pi

Last night the Boy and I planned a rare night out - a movie and dinner out. The original plan was to go to an early movie and a late dinner, but the crowds ahead of us to see Bridesmaids changed things around. It wasn't even 7p and we had tickets to a 10p showing. Since we were in the CWE, it was one nice walk down Euclid to Pi for some pizza. And what delicious pizza it was. The hallmark of Pi, as far as I'm concerned, is their use of corn meal in their crust. It makes for a lighter, crunchier texture than standard pizza crust. So I felt a challenge at hand; I would try to replicate a Pi-style deep dish pizza. I didn't plan this out terribly well as I didn't acquire any specialty toppings, but I knew I had a variety of vegetables to use, if not any meat.

I made the crust using the special pizza yeast, basically following the directions on the packet except replacing about 1/2 cup of the flour with corn meal. I used a springform pan to shape and bake and it seemed to go together (with mushrooms, onions and spinach) and at least look the way I wanted. For the sauce, which tops the pizza (for those unfamiliar with Pi or Chicago-style deep dish), I just used a can of diced tomatoes in juice and added three cloves of garlic, a bit of sugar and some salt and cooked for about 15 minutes at a high heat in order to concentrate some of the liquid. The verdict is that, while the pizza tasted good, I still didn't have enough corn meal in my crust. Part two tomorrow night? I must buy a new springform, however, as I broke my vintage model tonight.

For a starter I dug up an old favorite I used to call the Fruit Bits Salad - lettuce, slivered onion, walnuts, cheese (supposed to be gorgonzola but I forgot to buy that so I cut some tiny cubes of parmesan), and dried fruit bits. For the dressing I like to cut bottled poppyseed dressing with red wine vinegar (let's say an 8 to 1 ratio), which cuts some of the sweetness of the dressing and the fruit.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Imma do the things that i wanna do/I ain't got a thing to prove to you/I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans - Collards, green beans and chili

On Friday nights, the Boy is usually working late and we have dinner when he gets home at 9:30 or so. Sometimes I am quite sure of what I'm making and spend the evening working on it, timing things to get done just so. Or I pick something that is relatively easy, do all the pre-prep work, and start the cooking process just before he gets home. Last Friday I started poking around in the freezer around 4:00 with absolutely no idea what I might make. The things I found that piqued my interest were a package of ham for seasoning, some green beans and a bag of collard greens. So it was going to be a pot of ham, green beans and potatoes, and a batch of collards with onions and turkey bacon. The green beans were easy - dump the beans in a pot, dice up a big potato and add that, dump in the ham, add water, onion powder, salt and pepper, cover and cook for a couple of hours (the idea is NOT to have crisp, green beans here; this is slow cooked food). For the collards I heated some oil, and sauteed chopped onion and turkey bacon, added the greens, some seasonings and water just to the top of the greens. For good measure and a little spice, I also included about a 1/4 cup of my hot pepper vinegar. After the couple hours of cooking it mellowed to a nice little heat that was more flavor than burn.

As expected, the Boy rejected the collard greens outright. I had also thawed a couple of Italian sausages which I grilled and basted with some honey mustard. It was rather an odd Friday night dinner, but I enjoyed it.
I waited till rather late on Sunday to make a decision about dinner. A call to the Boy got me a request for "something warming." It had been a rainy, gloomy and cold (particularly for May) day and a big pot of something hot was a great idea. Chili seemed like an even better idea. Because I was too lazy to probe too far into the freezer, a stumble across a package of boneless beef short ribs became the meat basis for the chili. I think I've said before that every pot of chili I make is an adventure; they rarely taste exactly the same twice, and I'm okay with that. This time I had a bag of dried red beans which I cooked in the pressure cooker (seriously, if you cook beans, a pressure cooker is an absolute must - it takes less than 45 minutes to cook a pound of beans - no soaking, no pre-boil). Chopped onion (most of a large specimen), three cloves of garlic and the cubed short ribs were sauteed in some canola oil. Once the meat was done, I added two heaping teaspoons of cumin and about four tablespoons of chili powder and let that simmer a bit. I happened to have the remains of a small can of tomato paste in the refrigerator and in addition to that I used a big can of crushed tomatoes. I drained the beans and added them to the pot, seasoned with salt, pepper and several dashes of Valentina Extra Hot Sauce. To offset the acid of the tomatoes, I find a little bit of sugar (perhaps two tablespoons) works well to meld all the flavors together. Oh, and because I had an open bag, I popped in about a cup and a half of frozen corn.

It only got to cook for about an hour, and it was very good, but I suspect the next time we eat it (probably tomorrow) it will be even better.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Been down one time/been down two times/never going back again - The I've been a blogging slacker catch up post

Yesterday when I finally had a moment to write and I wasn't bone tired and brain dead (and the kittens weren't restricting my movements by being sweet little snugglebunnies), stupid Blogger was not working. What the heck was that about? So, I'm a little backed up on the food chronicling front.

As I've noted before, the Boy rarely asks for anything specific for me to cook, so when he does, I'm pretty quick to agree. The other day he vaguely requested "fish" so I got some salmon. I thought I wanted to make it on my new indoor grill, in the open position. My favorite way to eat salmon is with a teriyaki sauce and I had a bottle of some glaze/marinade and I was feeling lazy; a perfect combination. I wanted to try my hand (again) at some sort of fried rice (mine usually goes somewhat mushy), but again I had forgotten to buy white rice (I STILL don't have any - what's wrong with me?) and had to use brown. I cooked a batch in the pressure cooker (my favorite way to cook brown rice anyway), then let it cool a teeny bit; it would have been better to completely cool it, but there was no time. I sauteed some onion, chopped carrots, and some thawed frozen peas, then added the rice, some 'medium sweet' soy sauce and regular soy sauce. It was a bit of all right.
I can't even remember what we had for Meatless Monday, other than it was definitely meatless. Seriously, I cannot remember what we ate.

As usual on Tuesday, I guiltily crave a big chunk o' meat. And since it was horrifically warm outside, pork steaks and corn on the grill were just the ticket. I didn't marinate this go round, for lack of time, and possibly I noticed a bit of difference. Marinating in ale was better, for sure and I'll do it when I have time in the future. I had a big ass sweet potato so I stuck that in the microwave for 12 minutes and mashed it all up with some butter and pepper to go alongside.
Wednesday was another scorcher of a day. A day in which I worked outside till my skin was tingling and red. Have I mentioned the giant fever blister on my lip procured last week when I neglected to wear SPF lip balm for a mere two days? Anything I've eaten for the last seven or eight days has been tempered by this bastard. I'm sure it would have gone away faster had I not been in the sun every day since, but what's a working girl to do? At any rate, I was tired and cranky on Wednesday and didn't feel like cooking, nor eating anything hot. I believe that it was still 84F at 10pm that day. Ugh. Since the Boy had to go to the grocery store on his way home from work anyway,  I had him pick up a chunk of cheese, some shrimp and a baguette. Add a salad (with still more home grown arugula!) and we had a lovely summer dinner. Plus I got to use my new (to me) 70s apple-shaped cutting board. Gotta get vintage whenever you can.
Finally yesterday I was somewhat uninspired, and it had been another hot day. I had various ideas for dinner, but most of them required a shopping trip and that was out of the question as I wasn't going anywhere (which also means that Thai coconut red curry is on the menu as soon as I buy some coconut milk). Some talk on Facebook of pancakes and johnny cakes had me thinking of using the new grill as a griddle, so corn cakes with whole corn became the basis for dinner. I thawed some turkey burgers, crumbled them up and cooked the meat with cumin and chili powder, then added onion, poblano pepper and a big orange bell pepper and let it all cook together. It didn't look quite right at that point so I stirred in a bit of tomato paste and some water and let it simmer. It ended up rather tasty and the corn cakes were especially yum. The photo, however, has the lurid orange hue of a vintage 60s recipe booklet.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How, can he tell her he loves her/He, would just give his heart gladly - Steak and yellow rice

I didn't make any preparations for a Cinco de Mayo dinner (honestly, I didn't even think of it all day), but after I got a piece of sirloin out of the freezer to thaw, I eventually came around to making a yellow rice with corn and alcaparrado (pretty much my favorite briny product of all time). In the midst of making a salad, I came across a big poblano pepper that looked ripe for the grilling (along with some sweet onion).

I love yellow rice and I was a little distressed that I only had risotto rice, but I decided to use it anyway, albeit without the risotto-making process. I heated some olive oil and added a little chunk of achiote and cooked it a bit until it mostly dissolved and turned the oil bright orange yellow. I added the rice and thoroughly coated it with the oil, then chucked in some frozen corn before adding water about two fingers above the surface of the rice (a trick learned from Daisy Martinez) along with some salt. I turned the heat to medium low, put on the lid and left it alone for about 15 minutes. At that point it was almost done; I added a couple of heaping spoonfuls of alcaparrado, put the lid back on and let it cook for another 5 minutes or so.

The steak was simple, as usual; I sprinkled it with Durkee beef seasoning and stuck in in the new grill. Sadly I overcooked it a bit, but it still tasted nice. Just not as nice as it could have, though the addition of grilled poblano and onion on top was a nice touch.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meatless Monday - White pizza and pork steaks

I  knew several days ago what I wanted for Meatless Monday this week; a repeat of the ricotta and roasted tomato pizza we had a few weeks ago. I strongly encourage you to, if you have any inclination to cook at all, make this pizza. It's incredibly simple (remember, you can use a pre-made crust, or a refrigerated Pillsbury crust, a box mix or whatever kind you'd like and is easiest for you) and seriously delicious. All you have to do is thickly slice a couple, three, roma tomatoes and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F, drizzle the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea or kosher salt, reduce the oven temp to 300F and roast for  45 minutes to an hour. You want some browning/caramelization on the slices. In the meantime, prepare your crust (even if that just means popping open a can), spread about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil around the crust, then top with about 2/3 of a container of ricotta (I guiltily used the whole milk variety because the richness tastes so damn good), spread evenly across the crust. Top with 8 oz. or so of mozzarella or a pizza cheese blend. I also sprinkled with a bit of an Italian herb blend, for a little extra flavor. Bake at 425F until the top is slightly browned and bubbly. Really, do this. And oh yes, for a little extra ooomph, after baking I scattered some rocket leaves on top. I'm still getting a little thrill from growing this stuff from seed. My food gardening exploits are usually big fails, so it's exciting to be eating stuff I grew!
Last night was all about monster pork steaks. I marinated them for hours in coriander ale along with spicy steak seasoning. I'm not completely certain you can really taste the difference when pork steaks are marinated, but they did seem to cook better on the grill. Alongside I sauteed then steamed some onion, broccoli and carrots with a little garlic and soy sauce.
A very meaty Sunday, necessitating today's meatless Monday.

Kokedama or string gardens or just plain cute

I'm not sure where I came across the idea for kokedama or string gardens today, but there is was, in my head, eating away at my resolve to just stay home on such an icky, gloomy day. I researched materials for making them the official, traditional way, then decided to go an easier route that seemed to work for people just as well. I gathered: smallish plants, sphagnum moss, sheet moss, and a couple of different types of twine. Oh, and kittens to "help."
I started by taking the plant out of its pot and shaping the soil and roots into a more spherical shape. The sphagnum moss was looser than I expected, so I had to sort of chuck it on the ball of soil and quickly wrap some of the twine around it to secure it in place.
Then, I shaped large pieces of the sheet moss around the ball, and secured with more wrapping of the twine. Once it seemed tight and secure, I knotted it and that's all there was to it.
I think that if you don't like the idea of the visible twine, you can use cotton thread that matches the moss. The finished products:
Oregano, that is going to hang outside.
Irish moss, also hanging outside.
And the two houseplants that shall be kept on saucers.
The oregano and rosemary, hanging outside.

I have high hopes for these pretty little green objects. I hope they flourish.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What I want/I want now/And it's a whole lot more/Than anyhow - Panini, tuna casserole and tiny pies!

Here we go with another catch up post...

A couple weeks ago my George Foreman grill, which I have loved and used thoroughly for a few years, just up and quit on me. I have relied on that grill for cooking steaks, chops, fish and more, particularly in the colder months so I had to have a replacement. I did a little amount of research and decided to look for a new grill that would be a little more versatile so I settled on a panini-maker style and found a GE model for a reasonable price. So far so good, though I've only made a couple of different sandwiches on it so far. But it does have temp control and it also opens flat to be used as a griddle or an open grill, so I'm happy.

The Boy actually requested a panini the other day (actually a Cuban sandwich, which has still to be provided - stars must align for the right ingredients to be about for a Cuban sandwich), so I finally made him one with leftover grilled chicken, tomatoes, and provolone cheese. Oh and pumpernickel bread seemed like just the ticket. Some corn on the cob on sale inspired me to make a roasted corn and tomato salad. I didn't want to fire up the grill just for the corn but the gas burners on the stove did a mighty fine job. Once the roasted corn was cool I cut it off the cob, mixed in some halved grape tomatoes, chopped onion, and drizzled on some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The corn was almost obscenely sweet; actually a bit too sweet for salad, but good.
Yesterday evening I didn't have any ideas for dinner, but was willing to make anything the Boy requested. I think he kind of hates when I ask, though I figure if I keep doing it, he will eventually get used to it and actually have a list of things he'd like me to make again. I was thinking of an evening spent in the kitchen whipping up whatever it was he wanted and what did he come up with? Tuna casserole. I have no objection to tuna casserole, but it's something I'd think of more when I'm in a hurry or out of fresh ingredients. But hey, I asked and he answered, so I felt obligated. I couldn't go the traditional route, as I don't generally have any canned cream of mushroom soup (or any other canned soup for that matter) on hand. Instead, I made a bechamel and added a quarter cup or so of grated parmesan to sub for the soup. I mixed cooked egg noodles, sweet peas, canned tuna and the sauce, and put in a baking dish, topping it with French fried onions, a little more parmesan and some jack cheese. A quick turn under the broiler in the toaster oven (have I gushed how much I LOVE my vintage $4 toaster oven?) and it was ready. I added a salad and we had a dinner that made the Boy and me happy.
Yesterday there was a rummage sale in a school just around the corner and we ran over as soon as I got home from work and supervised the mowing of the front yard (the Boy doesn't always notice growing things that are decidedly not grass). At one half hour from closing, I suspect that most stuff was sold and gone, but we managed to find a few things: four tiny pie tins, a teeny roaster (it would barely fit a whole chicken but it might work for two game hens), an apple shaped cutting board with a '60s tile inset, and a few books, including a book of Spanish fairy tales.
Since I had tiny pie pans, I had to make tiny pies, right? I happened to have a refrigerated pie crust left over from Easter quiche and today I found a container of blackberries for only a dollar, so that decided two of the pies. I love the flavor of blackberries but I cannot abide the seeds, so the Boy gets those. I also got an apple to make the other two for me. To both fruits I added lemon zest, a bit of lemon juice, nutmeg and a bit of corn starch for thickening. For the blueberry I used white sugar and for the apple I added cinnamon and brown sugar. I didn't have enough pastry to make top crusts, so I very lazily cut strips from the leftover dough to make lattice tops. They are terribly sloppy and certainly not uniform, but I never claimed that presentation is my thing. Hopefully they taste good.