Saturday, February 28, 2009

#47 Martha Stuart's better than you at Entertaining

#47 Martha Stuart's better than you at Entertaining

I came up with another Martha cookbook since I wanted to tie this post into trials, crimes and jails and Martha has done time in the big house. In this parody book, she says poached lobster is tastier than purchased or legally taken crustaceans, she should know. I have trials on my mind today since I spent all of yesterday afternoon waiting to appear as a witness for the prosecution. Gee that was a great movie.

As I've already mentioned I read tons of mysteries and I've never been in a real court room. I thought it might be interesting when I got a subpoena to appear at the trial of the fellow who was caught in possession of my stolen car tag. I got there bright and early for the 1:30 start. Turns out that's just the suggested time. About 2:00 a fellow came out into the hall and asked if I had "talked to the Crown yet, Mum?" They call the prosecuting lawyer "the Crown" which sounds very posh. The Crown was a lovely lady, she said they didn't have much evidence and it would be "tricky". This sounded promising. I had practiced all morning raising my right hand so I wouldn't repeat the hand mix up that occurred at our wedding when we tried to get our rings on. I had a tissue in my pocket in case the defense lawyer reduced me to tears with his Perry Mason-like cross examination. I was ready!

But the delays continued. I didn't have a lot scheduled for the day but I was starting to get bored. I really felt sorry for the arresting officer. He said he had gotten only 3 hours of sleep the night before.

Anyway, I finally get a look at the accused, he looked like a well dressed cowboy with a crew cut. He told everyone that he had decided to plead guilty but when the judge called him to the front he changed his mind. The judge was not happy and said it would be held over. The Crown walked back and said I could go and then she said the policeman could go too. I followed him out and told him I was the lady the car tag had belonged to. He had wasted hours and wasn't too happy. He said the fellow has a long record and knows the system. It would be interesting to know how much the day cost the Province of Alberta. From the lady who served me the subpoena months ago, to the lawyers, the judge, the officer who wasted a day and of course my valuable time. I would have been happy to take the $70.45 it cost me to replace the tag but that didn't happen. I did get my parking stub validated! Cookbook #47 Martha Stuart's better than you at Entertaining.

Friday, February 27, 2009

#46 Anne Willan From My Chateau Kitchen

#46 Anne Willan From My Chateau Kitchen

When I came up with the idea to do my A Cookbook A Day Blog, I looked over my collection and figured
I didn't get bored, I had enough cookbooks to last maybe two years. Notice that's a big if, I can get bored. Well anyway, good old Anne here in her fancy chateau has enough cookbooks to last over 11 years, if she posted just one a day! That's over 4000 cookbooks in case you don't have an abacus handy.

Over 4000 cookbooks, even allowing for the fact she's probably MUCH older than me and she's probably been collecting a lot longer, it still leaves me in the dust. She states, "I'm ashamed to say that I possessed only a dozen cookbooks when I first started to cook". She's sure got nothing to be ashamed about now. Just think, 4000 and look at them, they're bound in Moroccan leather with gold embossed spines. They're beautiful and I'm sure none of them came from Goodwill!

One of the reasons she bought the chateau was because they needed a library to hold them all, yards and yards and yards of them. Many are "manuscript" cookbooks dating from the 1600s. Her most precious book, Opera by Bartolomeo Scappi, dates from 1570. It has "jet-black italic print and vivid woodcut illustrations of kitchen scenes, pots, knives, and serving dishes, it is a work of art in itself." I'm sure it is and I'm sure I'd be much more jealous if I could read French, Italian and Latin. Also who wants a 400 year old cookbook laying open on the kitchen counter as you crack eggs and puree soup. What a mess, a few drips and splatters just adds to the history of my books, it would be a disaster on hers.

So I'll be happy with my Wonder Bread Cookbook, see last post, and I'll keep adding books and Ikea book shelves as I run out of room. Who knows, maybe someday I'll have to turn to Hubby and say, "dear, I desperately need a library to house our 4000-plus collection, we must go chateau hunting!" I just noticed this, is it only me or does it look like she's got them on an Ikea bookshelf, I feel better already. So cookbook #46 is Anne Willan From My Chateau Kitchen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

#45 The Wonder Bread Cookbook

#45 The Wonder Bread Cookbook, an inventive and unexpected recipe collection

Who didn't love Wonder Bread? It must have been more expensive because we didn't get it very often but oh how I loved the texture. Can you tell what that is in the middle picture? It's a bread ball and the recipe for it is right there on page 35. I forgot to remove the crusts and I didn't have any Wonder Bread but it still tasted good. I love the chewy ball you get when you when you squeeze a slice as hard as you can. It really takes you back to your childhood.

Who remembers how many ways Wonder built strong bodies? At first it was only eight and then they added four more in the 1950s. My Hubby can probably name all the different ways because he has a great "brain" which was one of the things the bread claimed to strengthen. It's a fun little book and with more bread smashing, you can make bread cups and crepes suzettes, even bread waffles. I'm off to make some Wonderstrudel. Cookbook #45 is The Wonder Bread Cookbook.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

#44 Making Memories, Food, Family, Friends and Photographs

#44 Making Memories, Food, Family, Friends and Photographs

This is a very neat cookbook, it combines 75 recipes with over 50 expert tips and ideas for photographing food and parties. I really should read it again and get some pointers. One of the reasons I started this cookbook a day blog was because I already had lots of pictures of food and parties. I always have my little digital camera with me and I love taking quick shots of the food I'm enjoying.

As you can see I'm not a great photographer, I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of colorful poster boards. I just throw one down on the floor and snap one of my cookbooks and anything else I might have to help tell my story. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. My problem is, so many of the books have shiny covers and I can't use a flash. That's why my focus is not always great. I'm suppose to hold it very steady when not using flash and that's not easy.

Some of my loyal followers are actually VERY good photographers. I'm sure my pictures give them headaches but they're too kind to complain. Michael just got a very high tech camera, it will let him take high speed pictures of the race cars he loves. He's the only person I know who can take photos of New York and Las Vegas and you would swear he was the only person in town. He also does great animal pictures, he took the one of the moose stopped at a stop sign in our Canadian Rockies. I think it's great!

Manfred's blog is listed over there on the right in my favorites. He has an artists eye and enjoys black and white. There's a few food pictures posted on there too. He's had his photos in a yachting magazine and he's going to have one of his photos used on boxes of Kleenex. I'm very impressed!

Jeff is into Lomography, I hope that's the right term. He uses cheap plastic cameras and expired film to come up with some very colorful shots. His pictures have fish eye views, double exposures, wild colors and very little focus. I'm sure someday his kids will ask "Dad, why was I purple and why did I always have two heads, in all the family pictures?" He also has some great pictures that make it look like Disney World is burning down. He's had photos in a Japanese Lomo camera magazine!

Daniel has an art background, he can not only take great pictures, he can hang them too. He's worked in art galleries. He takes lots of great candid shots of everyone but me. I always look fat and dim in them. At least he's too kind to tag and post them, thank you Daniel!

I just thought of something, I should have guest photographer days here on A CookBook A Day. I could give each of these fellows a cookbook and have them capture it in their own unique style. How about it guys? It would add a touch of class to the old blog. Cookbook #44 is Making Memories, Food, Family, Friends and Photographs by Blacks Photography and Canadian Living.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#43 The Best of New Orleans a Cookbook

#43 The Best of New Orleans a Cookbook

It's Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras. We now begin the 6 weeks of Lent leading up to Easter. While down in New Orleans there will be lots of partying, I'm a Lutheran so we'll be eating pancakes. There will also be no activities involving the exchange of any shiny beads. Maybe not too exciting but it does get you in the Lenten mood.

I think the idea of eating pancake is to use up all the good stuff in your cupboards, so it doesn't go to waste during the fasting period. I'm not much of a faster but I will be using up some Bisquick. I've got the cutest little pancake forms. You spray them with oil and set them on the griddle. I haven't mastered them yet so I end up with lots of headless chickens which is always festive. I think I try to turn them too quickly, I'm going to try and be more patient this year. So even though it doesn't have a recipe for pancakes my cookbook for today is #43 The Best of New Orleans a Cookbook. Let the good times roll,
Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

Monday, February 23, 2009

#42 Easy Thai-style Cookery

#42 Easy Thai-style Cookery

I often crave a specific food or type of food. Lately it's been Thai, is it lemongrass, the fresh galangal or the kaffir lime, I don't know. I just love the stuff! I've had some luck cooking my own but I'm still not happy with my coconut rice, it's mushy. I take some short cuts too, I don't grind my own red and green curry paste since they sell packages of these. I have found a secret, add raw sugar and it tastes so much more like what you get in the restaurants.

We're so lucky, there's now a great Thai and Lao place for carry out and it's about half the price we used to pay at the fancier places. Their calamari and green curry is wonderful! Check out the photo of our last carry out meal. It lasts us two days so I think it's a bargain. Not as big of bargain as the food from the street vendors in Thailand. My husband traveled there last year and he dined on Pad Thai for about 60 cents, it goes for $11.50 here. I must go back with him next time!

Last time he came home with these boxes of Thai desserts for everyone. Beautiful to the eye but each one tasted like it had been cooked over a campfire, very smoky and rather chalky. It would be great to try these little taste treats fresh. So if you haven't, try Thai. Cookbook #42 is Easy Thai-style Cookery by The Australian Women's Weekly Home Library.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

#41 Apples, A Book of Recipes

#41 Apples, A Book of Recipes

This is a lovely cookbook with all the basics for cooking with apples. It even shows you how to peel an apple with a small knife, then you core it and slice it. That can take all day. It's strange that no where does it mention the greatest invention for apples, the handy dandy "Apple Parer & Slicer, Corer". What an over sight, these things are great! I've even given them as gifts.

It's not as if they're new either, they've been around a 100+ years and the old ones work just as well as the newer models. I can have the apples for a crisp done in minutes and it's fun. A suction cup keeps it firmly attached to the counter. You just plunge the apple on to the prongs through the center. Next just start turning and it starts peeling and coring and slicing. There's little waste, they cook very evenly, I think they're brilliant. Also if I had to do all this by hand, I'd never get my Mom's Apple Crisp made. It's a shame she never had one but she had the best recipe! No oatmeal topping, it was just 1 cup butter, 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Blend it together and crumble it over the apples and cinnamon you've filled the dish with. I use a bit of lemon juice to keep the apples white. I'll just mention cinnamon again, lots of cinnamon, I have a friend who is a master at this, go Katherine.

So go out and get the "Apple Parer & Slicer, Corer" and then you'll be ready for cookbook #41 Apples, A Book of Recipes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

#40 Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook

#40 Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook, Inspired by A. A. Milne

I stopped in at the local Goodwill yesterday, it's right beside the grocery store so it's always tempting. I had no intention of getting another cookbook but I found this for a buck. Isn't it cute! Sweet little Winnie-the-Pooh has his own cookbook series. There's this one on picnics and one with teatime recipes and another on cookies. One set even comes with Pooh shaped cookie cutters. In this book, there's little Christopher Robin and all his little friends eating baby carrots and heart shaped scones. So cute and sweet, gag. Sure they try to shock us with a recipe for "Bug Juice" but if you check the ingredients, there's not a single bug in the stuff.

What I'd really like to find is a cookbook inspired by the children stories of David Greenberg. His book "Slugs" is a masterpiece! Take a look at the picnic they're having in this book, now that looks like fun. According to David, slugs are totally edible. Their feetsies, giblets, riblets and bellybuttons, can be roasted, toasted, minced or blended into slug juice, slug soup or chocolate slugshakes. Sure it suggests many unpleasant things that can be done with and to slugs but it also warns that even the lowly slug may have its revenge. The end is pretty graphic so there's a lesson to be learned. Some critics have suggested that while "The text is funny as well as the colorful drawings, the subject matter, slugs, and the treatment, suggesting ways to eat them, can be too much for some children." Ha!

I'll have you know, I gave the Slugs book to my daughter when she was 8 and she's just fine. She does love the "Simpsons", horror movies and she collects comic books. Oh my gosh, what have I done. Quick, get the Pooh cookbooks and make some cute little cookies with your kids before it's too late!! Cookbook #40 is Winnie-the-Pooh's Picnic Cookbook with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard.

Friday, February 20, 2009

#39 The Royal Cookery Book in Colour

#39 The Royal Cookery Book in Colour

This is a lovely cookbook by Mrs. McKee (first name?) who cooked for the British Royal Family. She was trained in a castle in Sweden and learned how to use every part of a pig or a bullock. She started cooking for Her Majesty (Queen Elizabeth, not Madonna) in 1951 when she was still a princess. She was the only female chef in charge of a royal kitchen, so well done Mrs. McKee! I've heard the Queen refuses to eat parsley because she doesn't want to be photographed with green between her teeth. Mrs. McKee shares no secrets or insights into this, she knew her place. All we get is recipes and this was a very difficult book for her to write, because she didn't use them. Still she finally got it done back in 1983.

At that time, I still thought the Royal family was neat. All my family is English so I've always had a bit of a royalist bent. We were all up at the crack of dawn to munch on English muffins and watch Charles and Di get married in 1981. We moved to Canada too late to see them visit our city but I was here for the royal visit of Andrew and Sarah, the Duke and Duchess of York in July of 1987. We had them put on elaborate period costumes and tour a local fort in the sweltering heat. They didn't seem to mind.

I dragged my husband out to their walk-about on their first day here. We lined the garden walkways waiting for their arrival. One sweet little lady with a very British accent was standing beside us. She mentioned this would be her 10th time to see royals and she had come prepared with her own little stool to stand on for a better view. As they were getting nearer and nearer to us, she stepped off her stool and took my arm and help me on to it. I tried to say no but she said my first royal viewing should be special. It was, they came to within a few feet of us what a treat!

By the time my hubby announced we would be spending 2002 in England, most of the royal glamor had worn off. At that point I wouldn't have walked across the street to see Charles. I still think the Queen is lovely and we helped her celebrate her Golden Jubilee that year. We were also in England when both Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died. I'm sure it was nothing we did but there hasn't been another royal death since we left.

It was kind of fun getting out some of my Royal stuff, that's the Royal Family paper doll set and my favorite The Royal Family Pop-Up Book, see Charles and Di at the Fort. If you pull the tab, the towns people bow, after all, we're still a Commonwealth country up here. So here's to the Queen, long may she live and let's keep Charlie down on the farm raising his organic vegetables. I sure won't be buying his cookbook. Cookbook #39 is The Royal Cookery Book in Colour by Mrs. McKee.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

#38 The Great American Bison Cookbook

#38 The Great American Bison Cookbook

This is called a bison cookbook but to me they're Buffaloes! When we left the States family and friends said it would make it so much easier for them to buy me gifts if I collected something. After all they didn't know what I had any more since they seldom visited. I wanted to please them but I also didn't want a ton of cows or ducks or lambs which some of my friends were collecting for their country-themed homes and kitchens. I decided to give them something really tough and picked buffalos. After all, how many could they find, well the answer is 100s and 100s of them!

I have buffalos made of crystal, wood, plastic, stone, metal, you name it I have it. I have books, postcards, stamps, coins and magnets. Real bones, antiques and some rather valuable ones. I have so many I have to rotate my collection since I try to contain it to two bookcases but many have escaped. It's kind of neat when people find out you collect something rather strange if they see one, they think of you. Even people who really have no reason to buy me a gift will appear with a buffalo for me and it's amazing no two are alike! I've only bought a couple for myself. One of them is the Steiff stuffed one in the picture, he came from Harrods department store in London and at 43 pounds, he was my most expensive.

Many of them are food related, beer bottles, antique tins and advertising signs. My sister found me a great 3-D Stampede beer sign from a Calgary brewery in New York of all places. There's buffalos on old diner dishes and mugs. Do you remember the buffalo on the animal cracker box? There's a cookie cutter and buffalo jerky. So you get the idea I have lots of buffaloes and only one poor child to inherit all this stuff. But I think I've got this covered, there's this beautiful museum called "Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump" in southern Alberta. That's where the Inuits would stampede the buffalos up to a cliff and then they would be waiting at the bottom to butcher and process the remains. It was a brilliant set up and the bones at the bottom of the cliff are meters deep. Anyway, in a few years I figure I'll box up all my buffaloes and head south. I'll place everything outside their door, ring the bell and run for the hills. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to get all of them, I'm sure not having a garage sale.

But back to the cookbook, think of the feast they must have had after a successful run off the cliff. Buffalo is wonderful eating, it's very lean with little fat or cholesterol. Plus if you eat buffalo, more people will raise them and the buffalo will continue to make a comeback. If you want a challenge, click on the photo of my refrigerator and try to count the buffalo magnets, and that's just one side! So cookbook #38 is The Great American Bison Cookbook.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

#37 Low Fat for Life

#37 Low Fat for Life

It is February and this is Heart Month so here's a nice healthy cookbook for today. I must admit this stuff doesn't look too bad. Maybe a little bland, see photo. I'm kidding, everything in the book isn't pasty white. There's a big dessert section with lots of chocolate. Who knew there was low-fat cocoa powder, I sure didn't. Or "very low-fat fromage frais". It's a whole new world, I thought I was doing pretty good with the 2% milk.

I am trying to live a healthier lifestyle so I used some of my Christmas money and got a Wii Fit. Up until this weekend the only workout I had gotten with it was waiting in line for the Toys-R-Us store to open and then rushing in to get one of only 50 games they had come in. I came in number 26!

Anyway, this weekend we finally got it all set up. It's kind of amazing, you step on the board and it tells you your weight and body mass index. It also gives you your body "age". I don't like to brag but after years of not doing anything, I have a body age of 3 years less than my real age. I don't know why the family found this funny. Then they tried it out and I don't want to embarrass anyone but it's a good thing I like older men because this tells me hubby is really old. My daughter would not be happy if I told how old she registered. My lips are sealed but I would have had her at age 14 if this is right.

So we all have room for improvement and we've been doing some ski jumping, hula hooping and yoga. We're practicing strength and balance exercises and we're getting a nice rosy glow as we jog in place following a cute little Wii guy through the wee little Wii village. It's kind of fun, and I'm hoping that since I've been able to post 37 straight days on this blog, I might make it that long with the exercise routine. Wish me luck, it could happen. Cookbook # 37 is Low Fat for Life by Sue Kreitzman.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

#36 Sushi

#36 Sushi
I must admit I haven't tried much sushi, it goes back to my not loving fish unless it comes in a shell. Plus if I'm eating fish I like it cooked, English fish and chip style. I also really wonder how fresh the "fresh fish" we get up here could be. So with me it's been mainly the California rolls from Costco so I know I'm probably missing out.
I do love the texture of the sticky rice and they are tiny works of art. That appeals to the artist in me. Wasabi is Wonderful and the thin sliced ginger, yum. I'd probably eat about anything with enough wasabi on top. I even mix a bit of it into salad dressings now, that sure adds a nice kick.
We do have a friend who is a sushi expert, he makes preparing it look so much fun, see the photo. Also look at the beautiful display he created, I would eat any of these! So the cookbook for today is #36 Sushi by Mia Detrick.

Monday, February 16, 2009

#35 Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls

#35 Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls

Today is Family Day here, they came up with this holiday so there would be a three day weekend in February since we don't have President's Day. It's the perfect day to stay in and do some cooking with the kids and this is a great cookbook for that. I actually got this from my parents way back in the 1960s. It has dishes like "Italian Spaghetti" and "American Pizza". The recipe for American pizza starts with 2 cups of Bisquick and it's topped with a "nippy" bright orange cheese that cooks like cheddar, yum.

These were such exotic dishes they had to tell us where they originated. Who knew spaghetti was Italian? Tuna casserole was fine dinning, who went out to restaurants? We sure didn't. Fast food was Smaks Drive In where you could get 5 hamburgers for a dollar. There was no McDonalds in sight. Chef Boyardee was the only famous cook we knew. It was a simpler time for sure, at least for us kids.

Baked potatoes were baked, I microwave them now. You could make "Canned Peas De Luxe" on page 162 by boiling canned peas till the liquid cooks down and adding a tablespoon of butter. Do you remember ice cream cone cupcakes, they're on page 18? Those were great, the cone would get all chewy and soft. Some of my favorite blog sites feature fancy designer cupcakes but I haven't seen any one doing these for years. For party ideas this book suggests cutting eye holes out of a paper bag, decorating it and placing it over your head. It sure didn't take much to entertain us in those days did it?

I did have one very favorite recipe from this book that Mom made for me, it's the Eggs in a Frame found on page 66. My this brings back happy memories. Mom had a lot of different shaped cookie cutters that she would use to cut out the frame. At Easter there would be chicks and hearts for Valentines. She never made it sunny side up like in the picture, we would have gagged. Ours were flipped and cooked till hard and delicious. I still make these from time to time.

There is one thing you notice in this book, lots of the food is smiling at you. There's cereal topped with happy faces made with pears, peaches or bananas with raisin eyes and cherry noses. You could have a Raggedy Ann Salad and Three Men in a Boat potatoes. Moms went to a lot of work to impress the kids with these mini works of art. Food was happy and fun! We never heard of eating disorders or people starving themselves to be thin. Eggs and bacon were a healthy breakfast. We weren't afraid of salt or red meat. Of course we paid the price, we're all fat now and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. So this Family Day, I hope everyone finds a happy balance between fun and healthy, go put a face on your food! Cookbook #35
Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

#34 Dying for Chocolate

#34 Dying for Chocolate, A Culinary Mystery

Yes, I know I just had Death by Chocolate as my featured cookbook yesterday and now I have Dying for Chocolate by Diane Mott Davidson. I think most of us wouldn't mind that death as long as it wasn't HOT chocolate and that got me thinking. Has anyone else noticed how mysteries books are now turning into cookbooks? I sure have since I read a lot of them. Now you find recipes tucked right between the murders and mayhem. It's a strange combination but it works surprisingly well. This book contains recipes for "Scout's Brownies" and "Crustless Jarlsberg Quiche". The amateur detective in this series is Goldy Bear who runs a catering business so she's always talking about and planning dishes and menus. I guess it's only fair that after making your mouth water they should also include the how to's, so all the recipes are right there. As it says on the cover, she's a cross between Mary Higgins Clark and Betty Crocker. Not my favorite mystery writer or cook for that matter but you get the idea.

It's not just this mystery series either where this is taking place. There's one of my favorites Lou Jane Temple from Kansas City who wrote two series the "Heaven Lee" culinary mysteries where her heroine, Heaven, runs a cafe and her historical mystery collection with authentic recipes of 19th century New York. Tamar Myers does a nutty Pennsylvania Dutch mystery series with all the recipes for the food they serve at Magdalena Yoder's country inn. Joanne Pence has her chef Angie Amalfi solving her crimes in lots of books that always include "Cook" in the title. Virgina Rich and Miranda Bliss have cooking classes in their books and it goes on and on.

Now maybe these are too general for you, you might only want to read mysteries that take place in the world of coffee baristas. Cleo Coyle has that genre covered in the Coffeehouse series. I'm not a coffee drinker so I prefer Laura Childs. She's killed off people in Death by Darjeeling, Gunpowder Green, Shades of Earl Gray, Chamomile Mourning and many others. See the theme there?

There's also Wine mysteries, herb stores, chocolate shop mysteries, food writers mysteries you name it they've got it covered. I always say I read my cookbooks like novels and now you can read your mysteries like cookbooks. I do just wish someone would come up with a detective who was more of a cross between Agatha Christie and Julia Childs, or maybe Craig Claiborne and P.D. James. Or even Martin Yan and Charlie Chan. I bet I couldn't guess the ending in those. So the "cookbook/mystery" today is # 34
Dying for Chocolate, A Culinary Mystery.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

#33 Death by Chocolate

#33 Death by Chocolate, The Last Word on a Consuming Passion

Happy Valentine's Day! It was hard picking a cookbook for today. I wanted something romantic so I was all set to do The Paris Cookbook and tell you the lovely story of my husband whisking me off to that beautiful city. Then I passed by the book shelf and spotted Death by Chocolate, gee, Paris or Chocolate. It was a no brainer, Chocolate, so the Paris stories will have to wait.

My husband and I did have a very romantic first meeting at a Pizza Hut. It was September and I had just turned 18. It's actually a good idea meeting for the first time at a chain restaurant. It's cheap when you want to go back and recapture the old magic and you can find them anywhere in the world. Anyway we met, I was out with a friend of his and it was love at first sight. I went right back to the dorm and told everyone I had met the man I was going to marry, Ted! That wasn't his name I found out later but I've never been good with names. Love took a few strange turns. I ended up going to a Jimi Hendrix's concert with his brother before we had our first date. Hubby took me to a Andy Williams' concert, the man was smooth! So by Valentine's Day that year, I had him hooked. I found beautiful flowers waiting for me at the desk when I returned from class, what a thrill!

There have been many other lovely gifts over the years, the built in vacuum system, the chocolates. You just can't go wrong with chocolates in my book. Are you reading this dear? Not to worry, I have that box of Kit Kat candy bars hidden away just in case. So cookbook # 33 is Death by Chocolate, The Last Word on a Consuming Passion, by Marcel Desaulniers, now he sounds French.

Friday, February 13, 2009

#32 The Ladies Aid Cookbook

#32 The Ladies Aid Cookbook

I mentioned I was going to a potluck last night and it was great, as usual. I picked this cookbook for today because it was usually the ladies at church who organized the potlucks where I came from. They have different names for their groups, guilds, circles, societies, auxiliaries but many were know as "Ladies Aid". They could organize potlucks with military precision. Today these events are more free style and no one assigns dishes. There's still always a great variety at these things and always some of the traditional favorites.

One of the husbands had emailed that they would be bringing a "bean casserole". I knew this family had spent time in the States so a bean casserole could be either, Green Bean Casserole with the soup and onion ring topping or it could mean the Calico Bean dish that I was thinking about bringing. Turns out it was the Calico Beans so I was glad I had changed my dish to a Chicken Gumbo. It's not as bad as wearing the same dress to a party but that would have been a lot of beans.

Potlucks are a great way to socialize but have you ever considered how dangerous they are? I remember a potluck I went to when we were newlyweds, living near Chicago in Barrington Hills. Barrington is a very posh community and there were a lot of fancy dishes at this gathering that I had never seen before. Of course I tried everything and enjoyed it all. A couple of hours later at home, I noticed an itching on my hands and a red rash had started to appear. Now this is the strange part, the rash became raised and it started to move. Yes move, you could actually see it moving and spreading. It moved up to my elbows and then on to my shoulders and next to the neck. When it had almost reached my face, I started to panic and made my husband call his Dad, the doctor. He informed me, "it must have been something you ate." Of course, I had eaten a bit of everything and didn't have a clue what might have triggered the reaction. I still don't know to this day since it has never returned in over 30 years but I know that danger lurks at every potluck I attend. I could get the rash again!

It is almost a game of Russian Roulette with all the food allergies people seem to have now a days. Last night, there were people at the dinner that needed to stay away from flour and one fellow didn't want to eat shell fish. Someone else mentioned they couldn't eat cherries and others didn't want to run into any nuts. My daughter's lips swell up and blister if she touches a mango, it's not a pretty sight.

Anyway, maybe the time has come for us to type up a little ingredient card and place it next to the dishes we bring for potlucks. Or maybe a warning sign with skull and crossbones. Gee, come to think about it, we'll all lucky to be alive but that won't stop us, we'll be right there for the next one. So the cookbook for today is #32 The Ladies Aid Cookbook by Beatrice Vaughan.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

#31 Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic

#31 Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic

I needed a dish for a potluck last night and decide to go with something different so I used the recipe on page 24 for Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo. My clever husband even managed to find me okra which you don't see very often up here in the North so I threw that in too.

I've had some pretty good Cajun food in my time. We lived in St. Louis for many years and that's right on the Mississippi River but I'm sure it can't compare to what you would get in New Orleans. Oh how I want to go there someday and just EAT! I want to suck the heads of juicy crawfish and sop up the gravy from a jambalaya with corn bread. I want oysters and beignets and Po'boys and pralines, well you get the idea, I want to EAT!

We actually do have a couple of "cajun" restaurants here in town but I'm very sure they have never even heard of file (Fee-lay) powder. One place just adds spicy heat to their dishes until it's painful to eat. I like spicy but I want to taste what I'm eating. We've given them all a try but it's just too sad. My buddy Wendy and I did get together a while back and cooked a complete cajun meal with blackened fish, dirty rice and everything. Next time we'll do it at her house, the smoke was terrible or maybe we'll do it outside when things warm up.

Wendy HAS been to New Orleans and she brought me back the real deal file and even a box of beignet mix, yum. Before she left on her trip I tried to save her from some embarrassment. I told her, "when you order a piece of pecan pie down there and I know you will, it's pecan (peh-cahn), not PEE CAN". Of course she didn't listen and the waitress looked at her in disgust and said loud enough for everyone to hear, "PEE CAN, that's what grandma keeps under her bed!" I did warn her.

I'll get to New Orleans someday but in the mean time this turned out pretty good and everyone tried a sample. I know my roux probably should have been darker but I chickened out before it reached the dark red-brown color they suggest. So the cookbook for today is #31 Chef Paul Prudhomme's Pure Magic.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#30 The Best of Classic Cookbooks

#30 The Best of Classic Cookbooks

I'm all for making things easier when I'm cooking and I'm open to shortcuts but I held out little hope that the
Red Velvet Cake on page 313 would be any good. We all know that the Red Velvet Cake is the most wonderful cake ever invented and this recipe wanted me to start with a box of Pillsbury German Chocolate Cake Mix. Now I'm pretty particular about my Red Velvet Cakes, I even bought a beautiful cake stand with lovely flowers in the exact same shade of Red
as the cake when it is cut. It's the only cake that I let sit on this special stand.

So after some debate, I finally decided to give it a try. Let's be honest, 90% of what makes a
Red Velvet a Red Velvet is the frosting and I must say I make very, very good Red Velvet frosting. It's a recipe I don't mess with. I just don't understand, why some people use cream cheese frosting on their Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes? Okay maybe cream cheese icing on cinnamon rolls or a carrot cake. I don't eat carrot cake anyway so that's fine but on a Red Velvet, never. The Red Velvet
deserves and must have the traditional cooked bechamel frosting. This the most classic of all sauces is the only thing regal enough to be placed on this cake. As most of you know, the sauce starts with a roux of butter and flour but I've found a great way to do that in the microwave right in a measuring cup. It's really quick and easy. I will admit, at this point it does look like you're going to be putting gravy on your cake but that's before you add the creamed sugar and butter. This frosting has a texture like no other, it is so amazing it brings tears to my eyes.

If you eat it chilled, it melts in your mouth, if you let it come to room temperature it's airy and satin smooth and there's nothing lighter. It's the BEST and that's why I picked this cookbook and a
Red Velvet Cake post for today, I'm celebrating! This post marks 30 days and 30 cookbooks (see photo) for my first blog. There were those who thought I'd never make it. I've never stayed on a diet for 30 days but this has been fun and it's really nice to see a few people are following along. I thank you and now that I've reached this milestone, I have another goal. I want to get on The Foodie BlogRoll. To meet their requirements, I had to post 5 times, no problem there, 50% of the content had to be food related, easy it's all about the food. Then I just had to last 30 days. That was the part I thought would be hard but it wasn't. So now I'm going to go and sign up for The Foodie BlogRoll, wish me luck and look for their distinctive colorful Widget on a future post. Fingers crossed, it's going to be embarrassing if I can't figure out how to add it. By the way, the cake was pretty good, moist and it came close to the traditional texture as well. So cookbook #30
is The Best of Classic Cookbooks by Pillsbury.