Saturday, January 31, 2009

#19 The Buffets of Carnival

#19 The Buffets of Carnival, Entertaining Secrets from Carnival Chefs

Several years ago we decided to plan a trip to Disney World. To make it even more fun we decided to book a 3 day Disney cruise with the package. Wouldn't you think Disney would have beautiful ships and be first class all the way, well it wasn't then. We got assigned a ship that was soon to be replaced and it was a rusty tub. Not deluxe and not clean either. Still I held out hope for the food, after all cruise food is legendary.

Since we were a couple traveling with a teenager they decided it would be nice to assign us a table with other teens. There was a Mom traveling with her 2 teen daughters, who could both think of many things they'd rather be doing. So every meal time we had three surly girls acting like they were being punished by their mean parents for forcing them on a Bahamas cruise. We also had a waiter assigned to us who didn't really want to be there either. All he did each meal time was to tell us if we didn't tip enough at the end of the cruise, he would never see his family again and we better had give him a glowing report, or else.

There was tons of food offered around the clock but none of it was very good. It was all styled and carved within a inch of it's life, see photo. No one ate any of this stuff so I assume it was all thrown over board when it started to wilt and turn brown. What a waste, we should be ashamed! When a culture starts decorating with food instead of eating it, I think you're well on the way to ruin. I'm not even a little tempted to turn a yellow squash into a flock of birds as shown on page 13, okay maybe a little but I'm not going to! After all didn't everyone's Mom say, "Don't play with your food!"?

I wish I could say the trip improved when we hit land but the islanders were pushy and they wouldn't leave you alone until you had your hair braided. Not even Bo Derek looks good in that style, and I looked like pasty white Canadian. It was a relief to get back to Florida and we did have a wonderful first day at Disney World. We couldn't believe how empty it was, there were no lines or crowds, it was great. Since we had another full day scheduled, we decided to pace ourselves and save some of the best rides for our last day. My weren't we clever for planning our trip when no one else was there!

So we arrived at the park bright and early the next day and I noticed something right away. There were a lot of very, very good looking men getting out of their cars in the parking lot. Also a lot of them had on red shirts, and then it became a sea of red shirts! When we got closer we started to read them. Many said, "I can't even think straight" or "I'm not gay but my boyfriend is". It turns out it was Gay Day at Disney World! It did give the place a fun, party atmosphere but we couldn't even get near a ride so there went the rest of the trip. Now when someone mentions going on a cruise, I smile and wish them well but inside I'm thinking better you than me. Maybe we'll try again when we're old and gray or maybe next time I'll just leave the family at home and pack a red shirt. The cookbook today is #19 The Buffets of Carnival, Entertaining Secrets from Carnival Chefs.

Friday, January 30, 2009

#18 Company's Coming 150 Delicious Squares

#18 Company's Coming 150 Delicious Squares

The Company's Coming cookbook series started by Jean Pare is a real Canadian success story. A woman named Jean Pare from a small Alberta community started publishing her recipes in 1981 in this cookbook. By the time they printed my copy in 1993 it was on it's 28th edition. Mine says "Over 1 million in print" but on some of the newer ones it mentions over 10 million! I just looked online at their web site and found a list of over 166 cookbook titles in their collection so Jean at age 80+ has been busy.

Jean Pare (pronounced "PAIR-ee") had been a caterer for 18 years preparing meals for up to 1000 people. She was always being asked for her recipes so the idea of creating a cookbook was born. She also had the brilliant idea of posing in a blouse of the same color as the cookbook cover, for the back page. So for book after book, there's Jean on the back in a matching outfit. I can just image how boring and tedious this must have gotten after the first 40 or 50 books. They would have soon run out of the more popular PMS printing colors, they were already down to a washed out gray for Company's Coming Barbecues. Her closet would have been over flowing with the stuff in not very flattering colors. Plus she had to have her hair and makeup done for every shot and a professional photographer on call. I can't help thinking she must have come to regret this little idea that probably seemed so cute in the beginning. That is until someone had a brilliant idea! I just noticed that on some of the newer ones they learned how to use just one picture and photo shop in the different colors of blouses, thank goodness!

Anyway, I always wondered if that was why she never seemed very happy in her pictures. It turns out she did have a rather unhappy life up until about 1968 when she married her second husband. The first one ran off leaving her with 4 kids and lots of bills. She even lived in a tent for awhile. Still life has been pretty good since her cookbook business took off. She has had retail sales of up to $18 million a year, they have a beautiful corporate office building in the city, and she was awarded the Order of Canada in 2004. So I think she should put the past behind her and SMILE :-). Jean also had a short lived TV show, now that was sad, she was no Rachael Ray. Still she does own most of Domino's Pizza here in Canada so these things balance out.

Jean included one other cute touch in all the early books, which I'm not sure if she still does. It's called a "Pare Pointer" and they're scattered through out the recipes. A few examples, "Always buy a thermometer in the winter. It is a lot lower then" or "A sure way to get bronc-itis is to ride wild horses". Gee maybe I should add a "Mindy Memo" to each of my posts, no, if I had to think up one of those every day, I wouldn't be smiling either. I will borrow one last one from Jean just for today, "In some countries elephants call each other on the elephone". I bet you cracked a big smile with that one, Jean. So cookbook #18 is Company's Coming 150 Delicious Squares by Jean Pare.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

#17 Heartland Baking

#17 Heartland Baking from the Midwest's Best Cooks

I'm a former Kansas girl, born and raised there! Like Dorothy, you can take the girl out of Kansas but not Kansas out of the girl. So in honor of Kansas becoming the 34th State on this day in 1861, I'm featuring my cookbook, Heartland Baking. It has a recipe for Kansas Honey-Wheat Sunflower Bread, the official bread of Kansas. It was giving this title by the state's legislature so it has to be good! We're the Sunflower State and the Nation's bread basket so this was a very easy choice. A couple more useful facts, Topeka is the capitol and the western Meadowlark is our state bird. Go Jayhawks!! So cookbook #17 is Heartland Baking from the Midwest's Best Cooks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

#16 The Best Seafood Recipes

#16 The Best Seafood Recipes

Ginger just had to get into the picture when she found out I was going to post a cookbook about seafood. With the exception of calamari, all my favorite seafoods come in shells. Shrimp, crab, lobster or Balmain bugs, I love them all! Oysters, mussels, and clams are great too, stuff with scales, leaves me cold. I think it's because I got touched on the leg by a fish while swimming in a lake as a child. Or maybe it's because I have a fish tank with a huge ugly fellow named Mr. Chips living in it. Click on the photo and you'll get an idea of his size, almost 14 inches. Who would want to eat that?

In the past, I have often found myself looking for the perfect recipe for a food or dish, maybe this is why I have so many cookbooks. It becomes a quest and I'll try different recipes over and over until I think I've found the very best. Obsession is too strong of word but I have worked very hard to find the perfect coconut macaroon, the perfect potato pancake, the perfect red velvet cake, the perfect...okay so maybe it is obsessive. Anyway one of my more recent quests is the hunt for the perfect crab cake recipe.

I'm not there yet but I have discovered that for my taste, the recipe will include Hellmann's Mayo, Coleman's Dry Mustard, lemon pepper and most important Old Bay seasoning. Also celery not green peppers and very finely minced onion. It must be ever so gently mixed so as not to crush the crab and lovingly placed in melted butter to fry. It must also not have bread crumbs or anything else as a coating! Then when it is on the plate on top of a bed of lettuce, it will be drizzled with Renee's Creole Dijon Sauce and a squeeze of lemon. That Renee lady knows what she's doing!

I tried another recipe again last night and my husband said, "oh boy, crab cakes" but not with as much enthusiasm as the last 15 times I experimented. Today, I have several left over but I won't offer them to my daughter, she now turns green if I even mention crab cakes. I'm sure that wasn't the only reason she moved out, anyway I guess I'll have a couple for lunch and then maybe, I'll move on to something else. These still aren't perfect but until I move closer to the sea where I can catch my own crabs, I think they'll have to do. Gee, I just noticed this book has a recipe for Crab and Corn Cakes with Spicy Yoghurt sauce on page 96, I may have to try just one more. So cookbook #16 is The Best Seafood Recipes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

#15 Cheese & Crackers

#15 Cheese & Crackers

Just when you think you've done it all, someone introduces you to a wonderful new food experience. Over the weekend we were introduced to the world of Raclette by our friends from Brazil and it was GREAT! Raclette is a dish indigenous to parts of Switzerland and France, where they lived for many years. Our German friend who was also invited knew all about it, so I'm not sure how we had missed it. The term raclette derives from the French racler, meaning "to scrape". Of course everyone knows fondue, well raclette is a bit like fondue but it's not. It does involve communal eating and some very specialized cooking equipment.

When we arrived at our friends home, the table was all set and there was a strange electric grill machine sitting in the center. From underneath the grill 8 little pans with handles poked out and there were plastic scrapers on each plate. As the time came to eat, the table and all nearby surrounding surfaces were covered with a wonderful variety of STUFF, lots and lots of stuff. There were boiled potatoes, sliced red and green peppers, radishes, pickles, pearl onions, tomatoes, dried meats, sausage, bacon, eggs, carrots, broccoli, the list goes on and on, I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Then there was the star ingredient, Cheese! One plate was covered with small squares of mild gouda cheese and if you peaked under the grill, each little pan was lined with the same.

My family did not have a clue what we were to do so we waited for instructions. Turns out you select your ingredients and place them on your plate. Each person is assigned a pan, when the cheese is melted you remove it and using the scraper you pour it over the goodies! What fun, it turns into a free for all with lots of laughing as everyone reaches for the same thing. Each of us developed a personal style, I copied the German, he was lining his little pan with peppers, meat and then a slice of cheese before sliding it back under the grill. He would wait till the cheese was bubbling and the vegetables were getting softer before pouring it over the potato on his plate. We would eat a bit and then repeat and repeat again. It was amazing how many little pans of cheese you could go through decorating one potato and all the dishes kept being refilled. It was great way to celebrate!

Now I've decided someone in the family must get a raclette pan, it's the perfect activity on a cold winter evening. This cookbook doesn't have a recipe for the dish but it is about cheese, so #15 is The Country Kitchen Cheese & Crackers by Jean Hatfield.

Monday, January 26, 2009

#14 Chinese Cooking For Everyone

#14 Chinese Cooking For Everyone

Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year 4706! The year of the Ox is sure to be better than the year of the Rat.

We're very lucky to have a large China Town here in our city and it's branching out to other neighborhoods, soon we'll have a huge Chinese grocery store just minutes from our house. I can't wait, I love to pick up a half duck, cooked Peking or BBQ style, then I buy the little pancakes and add a few vegetables and roll it up, delicious! The seafood section and bakery in the new store will be amazing too!

Another nice thing about having a China town, we have lots of Dim Sum restaurants. One that we go to on Sundays after church sits 500 people and it's always full. If you haven't tried Dim Sum it's amazing, it's great for families since the more the merrier. You sit down at your table, you're given hot tea and a little piece of paper is placed on the table. Then the fun begins, women push heated steaming carts around the crowded tables. They are stacked high with bamboo baskets or little dishes of food. All you do is point and nod at what looks good. Don't bother asking what it is, they seldom answer in English. They place your selection on the table sometimes adding a sauce or cutting it into bite size pieces and move on to the next table after adding a little ink stamp to your paper. It's very fast paced since you can have carts coming at you from all directions and everyone can point. We've ended up with chicken feet and tripe when we're in the middle of the feeding frenzy. The feet we handed back but we chewed on the tripe for awhile.

Most tables seem to take one dish, share it and then move on to the next. We usually end up with the table covered with the little baskets and plates since we're always afraid the same cart might not return. I keep a look out for the Sticky Rice, it's a glutinous rice shaped around a tiny bit of chicken, egg, sausage and a few other things. Then it is wrapped up in a lotus leaf and steamed, see photo, it's on the top. The texture and the taste are wonderful! After all the eating, you just present the little stamped paper as you leave and they total up your bill. We're always amazed at how cheap it is even after we've tried lots and lots of stuff and we do try lots!

The bigger the restaurant the more variety there will be and since the one we go to is huge, hundreds of beautiful dim sum are paraded around. I can't imagine going to the small place with just one cart or where you order off a menu, there's little thrill in that. Also at our favorite restaurnant, we feel like we're living on the edge a bit. Everyone goes up and down a tiny staircase to reach the second floor, this is the same staircase where rival gangs had a shoot out and killed several people a few years ago. And talk about dangerous, I also wonder what would happen if someone yelled "FIRE" and everyone had to flee down this bottle neck. Of course they wouldn't yell fire, they'd yell something in Chinese and we'd be left all alone sitting at our table happily chewing cow stomach as the smoke surrounded us. I think I'll learn the Chinese for fire, just to be on the safe side. So Happy New Year, the cookbook today is #14 Chinese Cooking for Everyone by Jackie Bennett.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

#13 A Little Scottish Cookbook

#13 A Little Scottish Cookbook

Can anyone guess why I'm doing a Scottish cookbook today? Give up, it's Robbie Burns' 250th birthday! He was a poet-farmer who died at the age of 37 and many consider him the greatest Scot ever. Can anyone named the next two down on the list? Maybe Mel Gibson no, he just played some fellow named William Wallace in Braveheart. We'll list him as number two and you'll have to think of a number three on your own.

Tradition dictates that people all over the world will come together in his honor tonight and as a bag piper plays, the primeval haggis will be stabbed while they read his poem "Address to A Haggis". It goes on and on but my favorite verse is this one, be sure to roll your Rs as you read it with feeling.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!
Don't worry, the haggis is already dead, it's actually a big fat sausage made with the lungs, liver and heart of a sheep. That is mixed with oatmeal and spices and boiled inside of a sheep's stomach. I know people who do this every year and they can tell you several places in town to buy your haggis so you won't need the recipe on page 44. I also know a family that makes a chocolate haggis, it's the same size and shape but my it tastes so much better. To tell the truth, I've never tasted a real haggis, I would give it a try since I have tasted English Black or Blood pudding. How much worse could it be and they do wash it down with a dram or two of Scotch.

There is one great song that Robbie wrote that I'm sure all of you know, Auld Lang Syne which we sing at midnight on New Years Eve. I guess most of us probably just hum along because who knows all the words, I sure don't. Anyway Happy Robbie Burns Day to my Scottish friend! I'm sure he'll have on his kilt today. Cookbook #13 is A Little Scottish Cookbook by Paul Harris.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

#12 Toast It!

#12 Toast It!

I have always liked toast, even the word toast is neat. When we needed a "safe word" for my young daughter, so she would know if a message or person had really been sent and okayed by me, we selected toast as the code word. She was not to go anywhere with anyone she didn't know unless they knew the safe word. I also always liked the little flying toasters that were used for computer screen savers years ago, I wonder whatever happened to them? So I'm a big toast fan.

Most people will go through several sets of small appliances in their life time. I've lost count of how many blenders I've had, and then there's electric fry pans, the Teflon coating always seems to go on those. But by far, the appliance I've replaced the most is my toaster. I was always looking for a good toaster, after all, my mother-in-law has had the same toaster for the 40 years I have known her. I'm sure it's much older than that since it has this strange fabric covered cord that looks like it could start an electrical fire but it seems to work just fine! It doesn't pop up any more but she seems to have a 6th sense about when the lever should be raised and never burns it. Her toaster is also much heavier than any of the ones I was finding at Costco or Walmart. All the new ones I was finding were light weights with lots of plastic.

Leave it to my sister to find the perfect solution! She presented me with a Chrome 4 Slice Dualit toaster, the Rolls Royce of all toasters, it's even made in England and it's a beauty. These babies go for over $300 on Ebay, I think that's more than I paid for my stove! I could not wait to try it out and was amazed to find, that this toaster had gone right back to the basics. You place the bread in the slot, you set the timer to your best guess of how long it will take and then it rings a little bell. Now get this, YOU have to raise the bread with a little lever. It does not Pop Up! Over $300 and you have to walk over and pop it up yourself. How cool is that, it's like you've got a Rolls Royce and a driver but he makes you get out and open the door for yourself. I love it!

Needless to say, the toast is great. I kept my old one out beside it for awhile so I could test different things in both of them at the same time. There was a difference, the crunch on the outside, the softness inside. I can't explain it, it's like a fine wine versa the cheap stuff, to a toast lover you just know you're tasting greatness as you roll it around in your mouth, enjoying the play of textures. Magnificent!

Now the problem was I had this great toaster, how could I let the world know? We have few breakfast guests and the subject of toast seldom comes up in day to day conversation. I found myself going into fancy upscale kitchen supply stores and hanging around the toaster aisle. When someone would ask if they could help me, I'd just mention that my sister had given me the Dualit 4 Slice Chrome model and there would be admiring oohs and ahs. Up here in Canada they retail for over $400 so these babies put you in a whole different category of customer. One sales clerk went so far as to say, "she must really love you", when I told her of my sister's gift. They also give you that knowing look and then they ask if you want to see the gold plated lemon squeezers they keep behind the counter for "special" customers. It's really has opened up a whole new world for me!

Knowing how much I love toast and toasting, my daughter got me the cookbook Toast It! for my birthday this year. It even has a recipe for Perfect Toast, but that's for you poor folks that don't have a Dualit! So cookbook #12 is Toast It!

Friday, January 23, 2009

#11 Microwave Cookbook

#11 Microwave Cookbook, Random House
In my last posting, I mentioned how no one really cooks in a microwave, I didn't even think I had a microwave cookbook in my collection, turns out I do and someone does, cook that is. My good friend from back East informs me that she cooks in her microwave all time. Here's her testimonial;
My idea of a meal is to microwave frozen stuffed fish filets from Omaha - and then microwave a couple potatoes au gratin from Omaha and then microwave a couple of individual veggie servings. Who says nobody cooks with the microwave. I do! 6 minutes for the fish - 5 mins for the veggie and 3 mins for the potatoes. Less than 15 mins. and dinner is ready.
Now I don't want to nitpick but this still sounds a bit like reheating but since the fish is raw, I guess she really is "cooking". Just to let you know, she's not from Omaha. She's just discovered the joy of online ordering from Omaha Steaks. She swears it's cheaper and better quality than anything she can get in her local stores. I think she just likes the free mini cheesecakes they throw in with her order once in awhile.
In her honor, I'm featuring a picture of a lovely microwaved, "Romantic Dinner for Two" from this book, yum. It's consists of salad with warm cheese nuggets, they probably come from McDonalds. Lettuce-wrapped fish bundles, I'm not a big fan of fish and a bundle of it is not very appealing. At least you can't see it when it's all wrapped up. Then there's the Barley Pilaf, that gray sticky mess. At least they jazz up the plate with a small goldfish, this looks like a deluxe version of the little gold fish crackers but they don't mention it in the recipes. Just a suggestion to my friend, maybe you could use your betta fish Duck as a garnish, very chic!
So I stand corrected and I'm sure not going to argue the point with a woman who owns at least three chafing dishes! She uses them all too!! I can't wait to try the Ham and Veal patties with mustard sauce, served with the Brussels Sprouts and Apples, buttered noodles and Pears with Anise for dessert. These are featured on page 30 under "Dinner in the Fast Lane". It states, "entertaining, even after a long day at work, can be a pleasure with the microwave". By the way, I just checked the Omaha Steak site, the Stuffed Sole Suites which are regularly 4 for $70 are on sale for $24.99. I know what someone will be having for dinner tonight! Cookbook #11 is The Random House Microwave Cookbook by Margaret Frazer.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

#10 Sweetie Pie, Richard Simmons

#10 Sweetie Pie, The Richard Simmons Private Collection of Dazzling Desserts

I mentioned that I find many of my cookbooks at Goodwill and thrift shops. You have to hunt through lots of rejects and boring stuff to find the treasures but I think that's part of the thrill of collecting. One thing I soon noticed was that they have tons of certain types of cookbooks, the first are books with microwave in the title and then there are the diet books. We all know that no one COOKS in the microwave, they are used just to defrost, reheat and to pop corn. Plus every microwave you buy seems to come with a cookbook and these all end up on the shelves at Goodwill.

As for diet cookbooks, there's lots of them too, Atkins, South Beach but the most common discarded ones are the WeightWatchers. You could buy 40 of these, stack them and add a glass top and make a beautiful recycled coffee table for about $15. I have been tempted but so far I've given them a pass.

I did recently find not one but two neat diet cookbooks by Richard Simmons. They're both in beautiful condition, not even a tiny tear in their dust jackets. In fact I was not even sure they had been cracked open until I checked inside the front cover. There it was, affectionately signed, "Lois, Love Richard Simmons 98". Not just in one but in both of them. Any signed book is a thrill to find! My daughter went nuts when she found an inscribed copy of Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote, her favorite author, in a bargain bin. This hardly ranks up there with that but I was very pleased.

So now this becomes a mystery, who was Lois and why did she dump her lovely cookbooks. I wonder if she stood in line at some bookstore and waited to have him sign them for her. Did she take them home and try the recipe for Pink and White Velvet Semifreddo on page 123? It only has 95 calories per serving compared to 360 for traditional semifreddo, whatever that is. Some of these recipes hardly look diet, the Creme de la Creme Brulee, calls for 2 cups of heavy cream, 5 egg yolks and a half a cup of sugar, it weighs in at 440 calories for a tiny serving. Maybe they just didn't work and Lois found herself actually gaining weight following their instructions so she carted them off to Goodwill. I doubt this, they look too new, too unopened and too unused.

My best guess is her kids got together and said "Richard Simmons is in town signing books, Mom is looking a bit heavy. Let's get him to sign two for her and give them to her for Christmas 1998, what a great gift". If this is what happened Lois I don't blame you, I would have dumped them too, how insulting two diet books, I'm amazed you held on to them for 10 years. My first thought would have been, I'll show you, I'll find a recipe and make that traditional Semifreddo goo and I'll eat it all myself! Plus, call me fat, you're all out of the will! So cookbook #10 is
Sweetie Pie.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

#9 Kuche Kochen, Germans from Russia

#9 Kuche Kochen, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia

When you marry the oldest son of a devoted mother you know you have to try and impress her as well as him. I married a man whose grandparents were Germans from Russia. The group lived in Russia but kept their German culture and language back to the time of Catherine the Great. When they came over to the United States they brought recipes that combined the foods of both of these countries. One great new food my mother-in-law introduced me to was Bierock (beer-rock). Up until a few years ago, no one had heard of Bierocks, now when Googled, you get over 4000 hits and 312 photos so their fame is spreading. In some areas of the US they are known as runza or cabbage sandwiches. These usually are turned upside down so they have a smooth bun like top. We don't turn ours upside down we like the pinched look and the X on top.

So what are they? Very simply, they are fresh bread dough that is wrapped around a filling of browned ground beef, onion and shredded cabbage. They are seasoned with salt and lots of pepper and that's ALL! In my opinion, they do not need to be tarted up with garlic, hot sauce or cheese, the yeasty bread and steaming filling is enough.

Anyway back to my mother-in-law, she gave me very detailed instructions in their preparation. It was an all day project, she started by making the bread dough and then the filling. When the dough had risen it was carefully rolled out on a floured board. Next she would get out the rulers and measure out perfect squares, cutting them and then filling them with the cooled mixture. Each bierock would be carefully pinched shut and placed in a pan to rise a second time. After being brushed with butter they were baked and served warm from the oven. Hers are very special but it took so long! I'm not a great cook but back in the days when they gave aptitude tests in school, my counselor informed me I should be an "efficiency expect". Maybe I'm lazy but I can always find a quicker, easier way of doing things. I decided to apply this ability to bierock making.

After analyzing the process, I realized frozen bread dough would work great! Just defrost and let rise. Then you just had to take one loaf at a time and cut it in half, then cut each of those in half and then one more time. This gave me 8 lumps of dough. Then there was my "Eureka" moment, they did not have to be cut into squares!! If you placed the filling in the middle and pulled up in four places, they became neat little square bundles. They looked just like Julia's and it only took minutes instead of hours! On one of her visits to Canada, we made them for her and I think she was impressed both with the speed and by the fact my husband is now the official bierock pincher (see photo). Since we made them over the weekend, I have these photos to share and also cookbook #9 Kuche Kochen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

#8 Moosewood Cookbook Classics

#8 Moosewood Cookbook Classics

This is my smallest cookbook it's only 3 x 3 inches with 25 recipes. It's vegetarian, healthful and natural so it has very little appeal to me. I just can't get excited about Eggplant Scallopini, blah. Mollie Katzen wrote and illustrated it so no pictures either, boring. Someone must like this stuff, they've got a bunch of full size books in their collection as well. I got mine from a friend and it is cute and tiny. So cookbook #8 is Moosewood Cookbook Classics.

Monday, January 19, 2009

#7 Martha Stewart's Quick Cook

#7 Martha Stewart's Quick Cook
200 easy and elegant recipes

Today is my sister Martha's birthday and she shares more than just a name with the infamous Martha Stewart, she shares the dream of perfection in all things! Actually, I had no idea I was being raised with a future homemaking star. There were some hints, the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year trophy in junior high, but I must say I never remember her cooking a meal at home. Of course, I'm much older and I married and left home so I probably just missed the signs. It wasn't until she married and started a family that I realized she could do it all! She had a career, two kids, she was featured in "Visit My Kitchen" in the local paper. Martha even made the magnets shown in the photo.

She did sometimes let little things slip like, "oh, I made Dutch pancakes with lingonberry sauce for the family's breakfast this morning" while we would be eating Eggos with Aunt Jemima. When they moved into their new home she got a stove so big that you could land airplanes on the griddle, six or seven burners, who knows how many ovens and a shelf with infra red lights to keep your filled plates warm as you feed the troops. Most amazing to me, she uses it, all the time!

She's also fearless like the other Martha, before Christmas she mentioned she would be making her own cheese this year! Who knew you could make cheese but she said how easy it was and that it was a real money saver. By the time she was done explaining the process, my mouth was watering and I was off to look for vinegar and cheese cloth. It was amazing just like she said, the whey separated from the curds and within minutes it looked like cream cheese. It was also delicious so my confidence soared, I had made cheese! I emailed her with the news that I could make cheese too but by this time she had moved on to the next challenge. She had made homemade marshmallows!!!

Can you imagine, homemade marshmallows and she raved about how they melted in your mouth and how one dropped into a cup of hot chocolate was pure heaven. Well she had thrown down the gauntlet and I had to try them too. What a mess! I have a heavy duty Kitchenaid mixer but it was straining, on high it appeared to be in slow motion as the white goo climbed up the beater and tried to escape out of the bowl. I have never seen anything so clinging and sticky and then there was the next instruction, dust with potato starch and pat into a pan, right! I tried getting it out of the bowl with spoons, knives, spatulas, just like oobleck it stuck to everything. I was almost in tears when I finally had some of it in the pan. But she was right, it did set up nicely and I was able to cut it with a wet knife after it had dried over night and, it was soooooo good. I proudly presented it to friends and family and all of them had just one question, WHY? Why in the world would you make homemade marshmallows, I had to be honest, because Martha did! So Marty bring it on, what's next, homemade ketchup, decorative gourd carving, interpretive jazz dancing, I'm ready. You're an inspiration, Happy Birthday! So cookbook # 7 is Martha Stewart's Quick Cook.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

#6 Brazilian Cooking

#6 Brazilian Cooking
Exotic, Tropical Recipes from South America

Parabens! Today is very special, two years ago our friends arrived here in Canada to live and work from warm tropical Brazil. They have traded hot sunny beaches for 5 to 6 months of cold and snow but they don't complain. Even their two dogs arrived ready to take on this strange white stuff for the very first time in their cute little coats. It's been a very long process but finally this Friday they got their long awaited papers, they now have confirmation of permanent residence. In several ways their lives have been on hold but now we can all rejoice with them, they're landed! The next part of the confusing immigration process requires them to drive south, cross the border into the US, turn around and come back for a new entry stamp in their passports, this will make it all official. They are braving Canadian winter roads to do this right now! So in their honor I add a Brazilian cookbook that showcases some of the new foods they have introduced to our family.

If you haven't been to a churrrascarias restaurant, the highlight can be summed up in one word, MEAT! We joke and say Brazilian cuisine is meat, meat and more beautiful meat all cooked and served from long pointy swords, we were wondering how they would get these through customs but they made the journey into Canada just fine. Sure there will be some black beans and rice and wonderful little cheese buns with the most unique texture but the star of the meal will be the meat. Harking back to their strong gaucho tradition this seems to be the man's job to cook, this is good since it's heavy work, tons of meat are run through on each sword and it is set over an open pit or in wall sized grills. The photos show our friend getting ready to grill, note there's NO onion or vegetable matter taking up valuable room on the sword, just MEAT! The other picture shows a family meal with beautiful dishes including rice, feijoada black beans with smoky sausage, and all the trimmings that go along on the side, delicious! They have also brought a bit of the sunshine to the Far North with the drink called Caipirinha, lime and cachaca, it's wonderful and is shared communally. It's a great way to get a party started! We look forward to sharing a celebration toast with them when they return and become even more Canadian! So cookbook #6 is Brazilian Cooking by Carla Barboza Pinto.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

#5 White Trash Cooking

#5 White Trash Cooking

This is a GREAT cookbook, Harper Lee even wrote a beautiful introduction calling it a testament to a stubborn people of proud and poignant heritage. These are folks that came up with potato chip sandwiches, broiled squirrel, soda cracker and mock pecan pies. There are several other "mock" dishes in here because they had to make do with what they had in the cupboard. Grapenuts take the place of pecans and hamburger substitutes for "cooter", I had to look that up myself. It might be mock but it was tasty. So this book is near and dear to me, I haven't always lived in the frozen North, I'm a Kansas, Missouri and Illinois girl at heart. Also after reading this cookbook I realize I have many White Trash tendencies that show themselves from time to time. Let's start with my unusual given name, Minda Ruth, there it is right on page 20 "Minda Lynn's Cold Potato Salad". That's one of my very favorite foods, I eat it for breakfast if it's in the house, and here's another Minda that loves it too. I feel such a bond with her and it's scary, our recipes are almost identical except she uses large sour pickles when everyone knows only tiny sweet gherkins should be included.

Then there's other recipes, Impossible Pie page 110, why that's a fancy company dessert where I come from. I even have my mother's hand written instructions for it, what a treasure, laminated so it can be passed down to future generations (see photo). Note it calls for oleo not that expensive butter stuff. Also they have Ambrosia, we called it Goop, served over store bought angel food cake, heavenly! When I was growing up, we had one elegant chicken casserole dish that was served only for honored guests, the extra special sauce that accompanied it was made from a can of Cream of Chicken soup. My mouth is watering just remembering it and I keep two cans of the soup at ready at all times, green bean casserole need I say more.

This is what really amazed me, in the book they have a picture of the interior of a typical refrigerator in a White Trash home, it's like looking in a mirror or my ice box, yes I still call it an ice box. Can you tell which is which, see photos and click? Hint, mine has more BBQ sauce (more about this in future posts). Look closely and you'll also see Pillsbury unroll pie crust and ready to bake cookies, a Hickory Farms cheese ball, Smuckers Jam and bacon bits in a bag. All the things a modern White Trash home should stock. Okay I do have mock champagne and wasabi but those have been acquired tastes and are mainly for show. So I'm White Trash and proud of it, I wonder if that's Minda on the cover! Cookbook #5 is White Trash Cooking by Matthew Mickler.

Friday, January 16, 2009

#4 The Soup Bible

#4 The Soup Bible

I live in an area that gets cold, very cold and what is better to warm you up on a cold day than a big bowl of soup! Now when I say it gets cold here let me expand on that, just a few days ago, it hit -41.9C. Now I know what many of my US relatives and friends are saying, that's just Celsius or centigrade, it's not as if it was in Fahrenheit degrees. So to you I say HA! Sure we all know 0C = 32F but then a strange magical thing happens when the temperature gets to -40C it's the same in Fahrenheit! I'm not sure why, maybe it has something to do with global warming but see the thermometer in my picture. If you click on it and enlarge it, -40C is -40F!

Anyway we're up here where your skin can freeze in 30 seconds and we have to plug in our cars and spit freezes before it hits the ground, is it any wonder we like soup. If we had a big enough pot, we'd probably be tempted to sit in soup on really cold days. So my cookbook for today was edited by Debra Mayhew and has lots of wonderful hearty soups. It also has great step by step pictures so almost anyone can follow along, I did and I even included a photo of the Borscht I made last night, yum. It even has a recipe for pumpkin soup for all you Australians, I know that's your national food. So here's cookbook #4 The Soup Bible.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

#3 New Soul Cooking

#3 New Soul Cooking

Today is Martin Luther King's birthday, it's not officially celebrated in the States till the 19th but I'm starting early with a cookbook on soul food by Tanya Holland. Wouldn't Dr. King have been thrilled with the US election, it's been a long time in the making but his dream seems to be coming true. I remember an episode of All in the Family where Archie said there would be a black pope before they elected a black president, that was way back in the early 70's. Anyway, as a sign of the changing times, here's a cookbook that has soul food like I've never seen before. Tanya was trained in France and this is gourmet all the way, grits with gruyere cheese, dandelion greens with hazelnuts and sherry vinegar dressing. There's even watermelon sorbet with brown sugar tuiles. Tres chic!

It's for a "new generation of home cooks and chefs" but something is missing, I'm just not feeling the love. Soul food should make you feel warm and fuzzy and bring back memories of home. Unless home was along the Rue de la Sorbonne, I don't think this will do it for you. Some things just don't need to be gussied up in my opinion and where's the butter? So book #3 from my collection is New Soul Cooking.