Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Photo Narrative: New Orleans Food

New Orleans' Donut - the Beignet.  Powdered sugary goodness.

A very unflattering picture of my son eating a fried gator Po-Boy.
The New Orleans trifecta: jambalaya, red beans and rice, and shrimp etouffee

Smothered crabcakes

Brent's pleasant surprise: a muffaletta

My new passion: The Reuben

And yeah, a culinary tour of New Orleans isn't complete without a seafood dish of some kind!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Love the Library, I Love the Kitchen

For your viewing pleasure, a photo narrative...

But first - context.  God Bless Andrew Carnegie and his public library idea.  I often forget what a veritable treasure trove my public library is, especially in regards to cookbooks.  Supposedly, my husband is a fan of beets...although I've seen him eat them, oh, a half a dozen times.  In FIFTEEN years.  Anyway...

I've been quite prejudiced against the blood-red root veg, and I think it comes from my dishwashing days (as a young teen) at my aunt and uncle's restaurant.  Cold pickled beet juice combined with cottage cheese residue congealed into a bright pink mess on salad plates I was to scrape clean?  Did people actually eat that?  Disgusting!  And I harbored that bias for a long time...


But, if there's any conviction that we here at "Be Food" (and by 'we', I mean me) try to adhere to, it's that life is about learning and letting go.  So - let's roast some beets!

Mind over matter, is my motto.  Generally, pickling is not a preferred method of food preparation for me, but roasting - hey! - totally different matter, mind you.

This cookbook here had a recipe for Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables.  Serendipitous, no?  I found beets and parsnips at the grocery store, and cubed them with the more familiar potatoes and carrots.  Tossed with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, the roasting then commenced.

A word to the wise, though.  When the recipe tells you to stop partway through and shake or stir the food in the pans, you should do that.  Otherwise, the vegs burn a little...and that might repulse some folk.  But us?  We don't turn our noses up at a little thing like charcoal.

Discovery?  I found that I can stomach beets this way, roasted and seasoned.  My husband is happy.

The beets tonight accompanied a Roasted Chicken dish.  The planets must have been in total alignment because the meat was tender and juicy and flavorful - as you can see by taking a look at Mr. Cooked Chicken here.  He's dead and roasted, and thus, incapable of covering himself.  I apologize for his immodesty.

Book #2 from the library was this tome right here.  The kid on the cover looks nothing like my seven-year-old, but who cares?  Elliot picked out the "Black and White Chocolate Pudding Cake" for our dessert tonight. And well....

The recipe claims this cake is a "cross between a brownie and chocolate pudding".  And that, my friends, is pretty darned astute.
This hot, chocolatey mess was very, very good over vanilla ice cream.
The final experiment on the culinary docket tonight was a shot-in-the-dark from this book:
For me, a cookbook gets my Seal of Approval when I can pronounce most of the ingredients in any given recipe, and I can easily find said ingredients in my small southeastern Iowa town.

And, a double plus for recipes that are easy-peasy because I happen to have -on hand- the ingredients to make it right then and there.  As was the case with the Gingerbread Loaf recipe in this book.


Not a bad lookin' loaf, is it?  Pretty tasty, too, I would add.  Not for eating with ham and cheese or bologna sandwiches, but I'm thinking I might test this loaf out on the family tomorrow in the form of French Toast.


A productive, wonderfully exhausting day in the kitchen.  I must now conserve my strength, as next week I tackle that juggernaut known as holiday baking.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Army Marches On!

First of all - welcome back to To Thine Own Self, Be Food!  It has been over three weeks since my last post.  That whole pesky novel-writing thing, you know...

Second of all, check this out:

This is the dividing and conquering of 50 pounds of bread flour, purchased from the local Costco (ConAgra Harvest).  At $15 a bag, it's quite a deal.
However, being a King Arthur brand user, it's disconcerting to discover that Costco's flour is bleached and enriched...and so comes down to the age-old question: cost over nutrition? 

I will keep you posted on how my loaves turn out.



Third, we were running low on butter earlier this week, and my daughter (10) announced that she wanted to make butter.  So, I sent her and her father off in the direction of the Google.  Thirty minutes later, we had homemade butter (the shakingshakingshaking of heavy cream).  But, my oldest son became enamored of it (as did many others in the house), and I think it now shall become a staple in the Nelson fridge.

Homemade bread?  Why not homemade butter?  Pioneers out on the prairie, we are!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Culinary Successes...But Shortcuts

During the month of November, when I'm trying to crank out a 50,000+ novel for NaNoWriMo, my definition of 'culinary success' is different than that of the rest of the year.

A culinary success in November meets three criteria:

1. Is a meal at home.
2. Is from scratch (i.e. not from box)
3. Has a degree of "maturity" (i.e. not cold cut sandwiches and chips)

As you can see, I'm not so worried about nutritional value/ingredients.  It's the tradeoff.

I'd like to report two successes this week.  Both come from the Food & Family magazine, put out by Kraft about every quarter.  I love that magazine, and have collected many recipes from it, many of which have been thoroughly enjoyed by my family.  The two this week are no exception.

First, we were asked to bring a side dish to the end-of-year cross country awards banquet.  I dithered, and finally settled on Slow-Cooker Scalloped Potatoes.  The recipe was straightforward, and the only thing I added was a considerable dollop of Chive and Onion cream cheese.  My mandoline allowed me to get the potatoes very thin, and after about three hours, a golden-brown crust bubbled up along the sides of my crockpot.  The recipe serves 12, and I brought the container home after the banquet...completely empty. 

My husband, who was able to snare a last spoonful, said they were delish.  The recipe was simple and the results were great.  Anytime I'm looking for an easy sidedish and to get rid of some potatoes, I'll keep this little gem in mind.

Next is Easy Fettuccine Alfredo.  My ten-year-old daughter loves this type of pasta, but we don't have it too often because a.) it can be laden with those nefarious calories, and b.) most recipes I've seen call for heavy cream...which is just not a staple at my house.  Perhaps someday, I will morph into Julia Child, or some other such French-loving chef, and it will.  However, this recipe substitutes cream cheese for the heavy cream.  And it worked out well.  I finished the tub of Chive and Onion, and I thought the final result was unique.

So yes, I relied heavily upon cream cheese this week, which can be a dangerous, highly processed product.  But...I don't care.  This month, anyway.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Still baking bread.  Yeehaw!

Soccer season wraps up this week.  That means LEISURELY meals AT HOME.

But...this is what I'll be up to for the month of November.  See my post at Wish You Were Here.

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spaghetti Square Pie

About a week ago, my youngest son and I are visiting the local drug/craft store.  He asks me if I will purchase this:

Elliot's Request

At first, I said 'no'...because it cost $19 dollars.  But then, I came to my senses...remembering WHO I was, WHAT blog I wrote, and WHAT my responsibility is to my readers.

So, yes, I splurged.  Because, honestly, when your SON asks for a COOKBOOK...what else do you do?

Tonight's dinner?  Page 38 - Easy-as-Pie-Spaghetti-Bake...now known as Spaghetti Pie.


An interesting twist on your typical spaghetti and meat sauce, the before-baking product looks somewhat like this:

The meat/bread crumb mixture forms the pie's "shell", while the cooked spag/egg mixture makes the "filling".  Spaghetti sauce and mozzarella top the concoction!

Here, later on tonight, I'll post the final judgment.

Later on:  the consensus regarding the above dinner was very positive.  Seasoned breadcrumbs gave the shell a different savor.  In many ways, though, it tasted much like standard ol' Spaghetti and Meat Sauce.  However, the presentation was fun - the longer the dish sits, the easier it sits up like a piece of cake.  All in all, thumbs up from everyone at the table.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Don't Stop (Re)Readin'

Sing above blog title to the chorus tune of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"

I am slowly, surely making my way back here.  Life is slowing down a little, and we have eaten three consecutive dinners here in the house.  So, yay for small victories!

But, I admit, I feel a little rusty in the kitchen.  For tonight's Tater Tot casserole, I forgot to mix the cooked hamburger into the soup/cheese/green bean mixture.  As I'd already spooned the soup mixture into the pan, I didn't want to rescoop it to add the meat.  So...I layered the tots on top of the meat on top of the soup.

Not gourmet.  I know.  But, where the dish lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in taste.  A 9 x 13" pan would have been nearly demolished had I not rescued a spoonful for my husband's lunch tomorrow.

Cheers!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

It has been two weeks since my last post.  About food!  Egad!

Well, I'm back with a vengeance.  For now.

Yes, life is still busy and there are days that we aren't eating until eight o'clock at night, but I'm managing to make miracles in the kitchen.  My sourdough is going strong still and my loaves are getting prettier and prettier and tastier and tastier every day...or at least, every time I bake bread.



But, I've had two consecutive days of culinary awesomeness.  By awesomeness, I don't mean Food Network awesomeness, I just mean homemade-from-scratch, not restaurant, awesomeness.

Last night was a Nacho Cheese Taco bake that was an absolute hit with the kids.  Tacos in casserole form?  Heck yes.

Tonight, though, pulled pork sandwiches in the crockpot and Butternut Squash Soup.  The squash soup thing was kind of on a whim...and I just made it up!!

*Two squash, cut up and boiled about ten minutes (until fairly soft).  Then, pureed in food processor.
*Chicken broth, garlic salt, a block of cream cheese - heated and melted.  Pureed squash added and stirred in, along with thyme, pepper, and chili powder.
*Mixture heated through and then repureed.  This was my personal preference - I dig the creamy texture.

In the end, you get this:


And it was enjoyed by all.  Even the kids, whom I wondered about.  Welcome fall!

Monday, September 19, 2011

On The Hamster Wheel

It's busy here at Chez Nelson these days.  Although my bread baking has stabilized, I am very grateful for my bread machine.  In addition to normal daily bread consumption, Jaycob, our foreign exchange student, usually consumes four pieces of toast in the morning.  Consequently, the loaves go fast.

However, I am rising to the challenge (heh, pun intended) and keeping up with the demand.  I have made friends with my sourdough starter and it bubbles lovingly in a glass jar in the fridge.

I wish other aspects of my domestic matrix were as glorious.  Grocery spending has gone up, not wholly surprising considering there's another mouth to feed.  I have not been as fastidious on deal/bargain/coupon combining as of late (read, four months).  Because we often have children at various activities from 3:30 - 6:00 or 5:30 - 7:00, my menus have been rather uninspired and repetitive - or at least I think they are.

But, it is what it is.  Much of this jam-packed schedule is a result of not saying 'no'...or at least, not saying 'slow down'.

And so, I know I'll jinx myself for saying it, but the end of October can't come soon enough.  Then, the madcap mayhem will cease...abruptly.  And my cookbooks, gadgets, and appliances will rejoice!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quite Possibly, The Prettiest Loaf of Bread in the World

Oh yes, I've had my sourdough growing pains, many of which I've discussed in disturbing length here.  The last couple of loaves were okay, but nothing to write home about.  But tonight, I believe I've reached the first level of bread Nirvana:



And, like Shakespeare wrote, tis an ill cook indeed that does not lick his fingers, so Brent and I sawed off a slice.  And it tasted very, very good.  Very.

And so, after this loaf (maybe I'm at five now?), here's what I've gleaned:

1.  Generally, a teaspoon and a half of salt is too much....but one teaspoon is too little. 
2.  The recipe I'm using calls for too much water.
3.  As much as I'd like to serve whole wheat bread to my kids, using WW flour in the dough (even a little bit) is not suiting my taste and texture preferences right now.
4.  The top must be scored like in the pic above.  Otherwise, there's cracking on the sides.
5.  25 minutes is the right amount of baking time.

I'm thinking about forming my own band.  The name?  The Grateful Bread.  Yar yar yar.  Life is good.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Keepin' My Eyes On The Rise

Tonight, I am not so completely exhausted...so I will talk about food.

August is nearly gone, and I have decided to reinstate breakfast cereal here at Chez Nelson next month.  Not that it was terribly difficult to provide non-BC morning meals for my kids, but with an extra person living here with us now and this chaotic schedule upon us, I feel the pressing need to keep breakfasts as simple and self-sufficient as possible.

I did prepare one last batch of homemade granola to tide us over till September, though.  I don't think I'll stop making granola - it's so good!

The breadmaking, on the other hand, is becoming more and more a nonnegotiable thing.  As in, I don't think I'll ever be able, in good conscious, to buy a loaf of store-bought bread again.  I've got a system worked out too:  about two or three times a week, I do a loaf of sourdough and a loaf of bread machine white.  The loaf of white goes into the freezer (stockpile in case of Armageddon), and the sourdough stays on the counter for daily consumption.  A loaf goes PDQ...and that's why I'm stockpiling...I have two teenageish boys in the house now.  Yea, verily are they voracious...

Tonight, I tried my hand at making Bulgogi, a Korean meat dish.  I used the recipe at this gem of a website I found called Easy Korean Food.  This morning, I processed the soy sauce, pears, apple, garlic and oil and then marinated some sirloin steaks...all day long (instead of overnight).  Brent threw them on the grill (as opposed to frying them) and we had sweet potato fries and a bag of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend.

The best part of the evening's meal for me?  Doing our usual going-around-the-table-and-sharing-the-best-part-of-the-day.  Because Jaycob, our FES from South Korea said it was "dinner," because he was very hungry and because "of the delicious food".

Huzzah!




Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sourdough Blues

Well, I never!

My foray into self-sufficient bread baking has seemed marked by tragedy from the get go.

1.  The first starter I tried went liquidy and bad on me.

2.  I used the second starter to make one loaf.  The recipe I was referencing said bake for an hour.  The ensuing product was NFL-football material.

3. I "fed" the starter, then proceeded to knock the jar over, spilling most of the contents across my kitchen counters.  There was hardly any starter left, but I added the flour and water "refeed" anyway.

4. Loaf #2 baked for only 45 minutes, but it was still too long.

5. Loaf #2 resulted in a bland (though edible) loaf of bread.

6. Starter is completely gone (after just two loaves of bread).  My proportions must have off.

7. I start another starter (#3). 

That brings me to today.  I contacted Capt HD for the proper oven temp and time information and then proceed to turn out a beautifully textured, nicely tasting loaf of sourdough bread.  The starter was fed (measurements from yet another source) and allowed to foam.  It has been placed in my refrig, loosely covered. 

Hopefully, this whole bread baking thing will not suck anymore.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Take Two

Well, I've worked up the guts to try this again.  My reference this time was the book, Ultimate Bread

Things seemed to go better this morning.  I dissolved the yeast in the water, I added flour, and I stirred.

I did not have excessive bubblage.  No overflow.  No sticky cleanup. 

A Minnesotan friend of mine told me I needed to stir the starter a couple of times a day, which I did.  So far, so good.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

My kids are a fan of the bread machine white bread, and so it's time to stockpile.  I know white is not as good as wheat, but MY white bread is not full of the crap that Wonder Bread is....so there.

By the way, on a totally different topic, my 12-year-old son has started his own blog here at blogspot.  It is essentially a chronicle of his year as a first-year homeschooler.  School begins tomorrow for him (a full week earlier than his sister and brother).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ah! The Beginning of the Bounty!

One great thing (in addition to others) about Brent getting his Master's degree way back in May is that he recommandeered the planting of the garden.  When it was just me, it was tomatoes, green peppers, and one token jalapeno plant.

This year, though, Brent planted tomatoes, green peppers, and...lettuce, oregano, peas, green beans, potatoes, and radishes.   I know, the guy went crazy!

The lettuce grew fine, but we weren't vigilant about cutting it.  The peas and green beans didn't do well, and the oregano was bunny food.  However, we enjoyed radishes earlier in the summer, and lovely meal of red potatoes just last month.  Green peppers have trickled in, also, in pairs.

Elliot visited the garden yesterday to harvest tomatoes, and he brought in a half-dozen palm-sized pretties.  Today, though, Spencer went out and brought in a full bowl of ripe-and-ready tomatoes.  The question now is, what to do with them?  I was in not in the mood to cook them down and can them, so I went with what I did have energy for...dicing and freezing them. 

Personally, I love diced tomatoes...I use them often in stews, chilies, and pasta dishes.  Versatile!


Here's the before (kinda) picture.  The yellow bowl is everything Spencer brought in today, and the orange bowl was half-full from Elliot's haul.

Dicing the whole batch took me about an hour and a half.  Fortunately, I enjoy it.  When all was said and done, this is what I got.


Kinda looks funny when it's all laid out like this.  Doesn't look like a whole lot...especially considering how long it took.  :) 

Oh, and in other food news, I did a quick loaf of plain white bread in the machine today ("This might be the best bread I've ever had, Mom," says the 12-year-old.)  My freezer now holds a loaf of Light Rye and a loaf of White.  Whee!

I chucked the sourdough started, because after that initial bubbling over on Day One, it never recovered.  Liquidy and runny and not foamy.  Will try again later on this week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Obese Sourdough Starter

Today, I created (or attempted to) my own sourdough starter.  I considered capturing my own wild yeast, but in the end, opted for the yeast-flour-water concoction.  Perhaps someday....

So, at about 8:30, I mixed two cups of water, two cups of flour and one tablespoon of yeast.  When I got home after nine holes of golf, this is what was on my kitchen counter.


Yeah, a yeast volcano.  A sticky, pasty mess.  No worries.  I cleaned it up and moved it to a bigger Mason jar.  Good times.  We'll see what happens on Sunday.
Tonight, we ran out of the last of the store-bought bread.  So I pulled out the Light Rye I'd done two days ago.  Another loaf of the same is baking the bread machine right now.  Life is good.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Daily Bread

While it is true that man cannot live by bread alone, this girl is going to attempt to live without premade, presliced bread for the next a lot of weeks.

Now, this is kind of a big deal.  We eat bread pretty handily around here.  The kids make sandwiches for lunch, have toast in the morning, etc. etc.

So - this means, I will now be baking my own bread.  Finally!  you are thinking, this lady is finally with the program.  This is the commitment I am going to attempt to make:  three (maybe four) times a week, I will make a loaf of something yeasty in my bread machine.  Then, I will wrap it, freezer bag it, and place it in my deep freeze.  Some folks stockpile ammunition, I shall stockpile bread loaves.

I read Martha's post about sourdough bread here, and was inspired to do it for myself.  In the last month, I've had conversations with two people who bake their own sourdough bread, and if that isn't enough of a message from the universe, I don't know what is.  So, tomorrow, I'll begin the process of capturing my own sourdough.  Yay!  Fun!

Oh, and the breakfast thing?!  Tomorrow will be Morning Five, and things are going well.  Nobody has asked about Cheerios or Lucky Charms at all.  I've been asked to make pancakes once and the husband made omelets this morning.  Otherwise, they've gotten their own toast, yogurt, and eggs.

Ba-da-ba-ba-baa...I'm lovin' it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the beginning of August.  August 1st.  For me, it's hard to think of August in any other way besides The Month In Which I Start Working Again.

This year, however, August will be a little different. 

As far as this blog goes, August is No-Breakfast Cereal Month here at Chez Nelson.  We've been without the ubiquitous grain product for about a week and a half now...so it's not like we're going cold turkey.  This morning's grocery cart did not look much different than any other week: another dozen eggs, an extra muskmelon, a few more cartons of yogurt...

I did not do any make-ahead dishes in preparation for this month...so, for this first week, it looks like toast, scrambled/poached eggs, pancakes, yogurt, and fruit will headline the morning meal.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Looking Ahead to August

So.

It's been awhile.

How have you all been?

Is it sad that I am looking forward, in a small way, to the beginning of the school year?  That always seems to mark the start of routine, of focus.

For example, this week.  Last weekend, my two sons (12 and 6) picked the recipes for the family dinners for the week.  I did the shopping.  So far, so good.  We had delicious meatball subs on Monday and amazing chicken pot pie on Tuesday.  I did the prep work, and Brent finished up with the cooking.

Then, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we dined out.  Even though we had a menu.   Neither my husband or I felt like cooking.  Neither of us had willpower, either.  Bad, bad, bad, bad.

Oh well.  Right?  I am already looking ahead to August.  This family seems to eat best when it's faced with some kind of challenge.  It is probably time for the No-Restaurant Challenge.  I wouldn't mind trying the Homemade-Bread-For-An-Extended-Period-of-Time Challenge someday.  Here's one I brought up to my family:

Going-Without-Boxed-Breakfast-Cereal (for a month).

See, cereal is primarily me being a lazy mom.  It's surpassingly easier for my children to get their own breakfast, leaving me time for...whatever it is that I might do in the morning.  I recently came across a blog HERE, which referenced me to the Weston A. Price Foundation website.  And there's where you can read all about the complicated process grain goes through to become a cereal.  Ultimately, cereal is not a food, it is a food product.

Okay, take all this in whatever way you want...I mean, after all, this info comes from a dot.com.  A quick cursory dip into some academic databases I have access to don't turn up much to corroborate the opinions on the Nourished Kitchen blog.   And I don't believe breakfast cereal is the devil incarnate.  But...I did purchase a box of Bran Flakes in the last month.  Just Bran Flakes.  No dried fruit, no sugar-coat, no frills.  Third ingredient on the list: sugar.  Why?  Fiber is good for me, so I purchase a product I *think* will be high in fiber...and in fact, has been recommended to me as such.  But, I've also read dozens of stories about the health dangers of sugar.  I've come to terms with the fact that sugar consumption is unavoidable.  I eat an apple or a serving of peas, I'm going to eat some kind of sugar.  But, it's a naturally-occurring sugar.  What naturally occurring sugar is there in bran?  Why is it added to Bran Flakes?

You see the quandary I face.  And, of course, remember, this is supposed to be a "healthy" cereal.

All this information spurred me to ask my family if they would give up breakfast cereals for a month.  The response was lukewarm, as I suspected it would be.  Keep in mind, the sugariest cereal I purchase for the home is Honey Nut Cheerios.  But, as we discussed the idea more, my children were able to generate dozens of cereal substitutes: fruit, oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, bacon, etc.  From there, we get into egg and sausage bakes, pancakes/waffles, French toast, breakfast burritos, homemade granola, etc.

I do suspect that soon I will be posting about an all-breakfast preparation weekend!  There will be double or triple batching and freezing, I foresee.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lentil Soup For Husbands

Let's play a word association game.  I'll give you a word, and you give me the first thing that comes into your mind.

Lentil.  Barbra Streisand.  Exotic.  Split pea soup.  Legume.  New York.

If any of these are familiar to you, then we share the same thought process.  Again, a lentil is a foodstuff I did not eat, ever, as I was growing up (I know, I know, story of my life).  Lentils were weird, little, pea-like things that people from New York ate.  And Barbra Streisand?  Oh, I know, "Yentl".  A movie she was in; rhymes with lentil.

Lentils, I've discovered are a super-duper nutritional powerhouse.  In fact, check it out here.

So, last night's dinner: Lentil Soup.  The recipe indicated that it would require two hours of cooking time, and because I would be out running errands around the time it would need to be started, I left this task in the hands of my trusty, but nervous husband-chef.

As with most recipes, prepwork makes the actual cooking process go much faster.

In the blue Tupperware at left is: 1 cup sorted and rinsed lentils, 1 stalk celery and 1/2 medium onion (both chopped), and 1 cup of cubed ham.

In the metal dish is garlic powder, salt, pepper, and one bay leaf.

In the Pyrex measuring bowl is five cups of water.
Directions are simple: heat the water (via microwave), pour it into the stockpot, add the seasonings, and ham/lentil mix.  Simmer for two hours.

The husband still had me write the instructions down.  Which I did because I love the guy so much.
It all turned out good, because I came home to a home full of great smells.  And a final product that tasted a lot like bean-and-ham soup.  Rolls and fruit rounded out this very simple, healthy, and delicious meal.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Artichoke, You're No Joke

2011 has been a year of new vegetable experimentation: turnips, asparagus, avocados, etc.  But artichokes, they're nothing new.   I've had them before.  In Spinach-Artichoke Dip.  At TGIFridays. 

Which I've decided - DOES NOT COUNT.

So, here's this week's vegetable project: the artichoke.  As you know, they look like this when you buy them in the produce section of the grocery store:

Here are the two major things I learned: if you cut up the artichoke and don't dip it in lemon juice, it will turn brown quickly.  Kind of like my children in the summertime.  And, these guys are a pain to cut up, and I think next time, I'll go with frozen (if I can find it).

So, I began my project by hacking (and I mean hacking) the stems off.  Then, I lopped off the top inch or so.  Then, I plucked off all the tough outer leaves.  Finally, I was ready to hack the bereft fruit in half...

And that, right there, gives this vegetable its name: that hairy, fuzzy little bit right there when you cut it open.  The choke.  Such a weird name, really.  It's inedible too, so why is it even a part of the vegetable's name?

Anyhow, from here, I quartered it and tossed the pieces into my rice cooker, which happens to have a steaming component to it as well.  After twenty-five minutes, I threw the steamed bits into a skillet with some sauteed mushrooms and green onions (random veg I found in the crisper).

I threw these vegetables (with some minced garlic) together in the skillet (with some garlic-infused olive oil, because olive oil makes the world go round) for another five or so minutes, while I boiled up some rotini pasta.  When the pasta was al dente, I tossed the artichoke/mushroom/onion mess in with it.

The finished product: Sauteed Artichoke-Mushroom Pasta
And this is what we ate for supper the other night.  With some cut-up fruit and bread.  A little Parmesan on top.  The kids' plates were clean, my plate was clean, Brent's plate was clean...I think that's a pretty good indicator that we will be making this again.

I feel as if I am gaining confidence in the kitchen...because guess what?  I totally made this recipe up in my mind!!  No cookbook!  Whee!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hail, Kale!

If there's one thing I've learned during the writing of this blog, it's that I've lived a very sheltered life, culinarily and nutritionally speaking.

Kale is another vegetable I never had growing up.  It's the weird, really curly stuff I'd see in the vicinity of the cabbage and spinach (vegetables I didn't have very often as a child, either).  I never really knew if it was a stiff kind of parsley or romaine lettuce.

And for years (even into my thirties, I freely and ashamedly admit), I confused kale and kelp.  That's an ignorant landlubber for ya.  At any rate, I was never impelled to pick up a bunch of kale for any reason...which is too bad, because it's REALLY good for you and versatile and stuff.

Until now (not being impelled to pick up kale, that is).  First, though, let me explain how it came about:

1.  Husband receives an iPad for his birthday (this last February).
2.  Tech-savvy husband uploads a bunch of free, fun apps onto iPad (including the infernal "Angry Birds").
3.  Husband lets wife play with new iPad, but not before he uploads a free app from Epicurious.com, just because he knows she loves cooking and preparing and reading about food.
4.  Wife has blast looking up, and trying, new recipes including a turnip gratin, roasted asparagus, etc.  A whole new world of vegetable dishes opens up before her eyes.
5.  Wife finds a neat-looking, super-easy recipe for Tuscan Kale Chips.  She files it in her recipe box for later referral.
6.  Wife takes a full-time substitute teaching job and is kind of absent from the kitchen for about three months.  Tuscan Kale Chips are on backburner.
7.  About a week and a half ago, daughter is watching random TV cooking show in which one of the items being prepared is Kale Chips!  She raves to her mom (me) about how cool they look and easy they seem.  She does not know of the recipe stored in her mom's Epicurious recipe box.  Mom realizes the universe is speaking to her and that it is time to make Kale Chips. 

Here's the recipe here: (Tuscan) Kale Chips.  The kale I used is of the curly variety, not Tuscan; thus, I really cannot refer to these as Tuscan Kale Chips.

The only problem?  I salted the leaves too much before putting them in...otherwise, I really, really, really liked them, as did everyone else, except Kirby (who, ironically, was the impetus for making them in the first place).  And speaking of...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lower Arm Workout

Now, I know you read this entry's title, and you wonder what you've stumbled onto.  A food-turned-exercise-blog??  What craziness is that?

Rest assured, I am still me and you are still you.  This is still a blog about food.

A few days ago, I used one avocado and one tomato for those California Chicken sandwiches.  Today, I decided to make guacamole with the remaining avocadoes and tomato.  It's a pretty easy process, actually:

Two avocadoes, One tomato, Chopped onion, Lime juice, Salt and pepper and Hot sauce (optional...well, not for me, but for you).

Now, here's what I did: I processed everything in my food processor, until it all looked like this...

I think the final product is too runny, and so next time I will cut back on the lime juice, and I will also hand mash the avocadoes and hand-mince the tomatoes and onions.

As if this wasn't bad enough, one of my avocadoes was extremely underripe.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have chucked one in a paper bag with the tomato and let nature take its course.  Underripe avocadoes lead to wrist hyperextension when doing Lower Arm Exercise #1, which is the Twist and Pit.  To do this exercise, twist each half of the avo in the opposite direction (after you've sliced it).   If the avo is ripe, the two halves will separate easily...if not, then the chef runs the risk of major injury in the form of carpal tunnel.  Then, remove the brown pit thingy.

This batch here is still serviceable, taste-wise.  Nevertheless, this gal has learned her lesson.  Ripe avocadoes make or break the guacamole.  How do you know if it's ripe?  The darker, the riper...but you gotta feel them to know for sure.  If the flesh inside yields a little to a gentle squeeze, you should be good.  When you peel it later, the skin will practically fall away from the pulp.
Onto Lower Arm Exercise #2: The Grate

A good friend (whose blog you'll find here) was mentioning Parmesan Chips in a Glycemic Index discussion we were having recently.  Well, I like Parmesan and I like chips...and that's all I needed.  Another simple recipe, really:

Although it's not shown here, I also added garlic powder...for that little extra something-something.  However, I think I will leave it out next time, because Parmesan has a strong flavor anyway.

I shredded the cheese wedge with the box grater...during the two minutes it took, I developed some serious forearm muscle.  In one arm.  I look a bit lopsided now, but next time I will grate with my left arm and even things up.

I mixed the cheese with the powder and sprinkled the entire mess on a cookie sheet lined with the parchment paper.  Then, I baked it all at 350 for about six minutes.  When the edges start going brownish, it's done.

Again, let me tell you what I did, what went wrong, and how I might fix it for next time.

I removed the sheet from the hot pan and placed on a wire rack to cool.  Then, I left my house for about an hour.  I returned and cut the sheet of cooked cheese in chip-like forms.  They were chewy...very tasty, yes, but not crunchy like I was expecting chips to be.  And that, friends, was the only real fail.  So, next time, I may try to spread the cheese out even thinner than I did...and I may try to remove the cheese mass from the parchment paper sooner so that it doesn't remain in contact with the natural oil cooked out of the cheese (which may have contributed to the chewiness).  And, finally, I will probably not leave my house at all next time, so that I monitor the product better.  But - I will definitely be trying it again.  Any hard cheese is viable here as well.

In the end, you get a product that looks like this and tastes great!


So, in short, both recipe attempts today left a little to be desired...however, I believe I know how to do it differently for next time.  Don't be surprised, with all the forearm workout I'll be getting, if you don't see me on the cover of Muscle & Fitness sometime soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Simple Summer Bill of Fare

This is Fish.  He is a mahi-mahi.



+
Asparagus
+
Olive Oil
+
Salt & Pepper



+
Grill
=
Happy families and happy stomachs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jumping On The Avocado Bandwagon

So, here's a fun thing.  Go to google.com and type in 'avocados' - you'll get 37 million hits.  It's got its own wikipedia entry (although, who doesn't, besides me?), .org website, festival, not to mention millions of recipes. So, yeah, avocados are a pretty big deal.

Well, put me on the list of recent admirers!

There were no avocados in my house as a youngster.  I don't remember trying one in college.  I might have had two or three children before the urge to do so took over.  In fact, the general opinion about avocados seemed negative because of the fat content.  But that was before the discovery of the benefits (or neutrality, at the very least) of the high percentage of monounsaturated fats, the fact that it contains more potassium than a banana, and a high fiber content.

Thus, avocados should be enjoyed...but like everything else, in moderation.

For example, at my house tonight.  My plan was to have plain ol' precooked grilled chicken breasts (on sale at Walmart this week); I was hoping for a bolt of divine inspiration on how to prepare them.  Then, I saw my daily email from www.allrecipes.com.  California Chicken.  I was intrigued, and sure enough, with minor modifications, I, too, could enjoy the Recipe of the Day.  And this was the eventual product: 


Yes, real cheese does get shiny like that when it's being baked.  Of course, I could have left it off entirely.  I baked the breasts for ten minutes, then topped them with a slice of tomato and two small avocado slices before laying the cheese atop. 

I had mine without a bun, but everyone else in the family chose to eat it as a sandwich.  And all plates were clean.

Go, Avocado!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Alaska: Big Coastlines, Big Waistlines

Here's a tip for any of you thinking about visiting The Last Frontier:

Do not underestimate driving times.  There is no such thing as a fifteen-minute drive from town to town.  That distance is measured in hours.

Some of you good folks out there have the intestinal fortitude to go a good four or five hours without a stop of any kind.  Not true for yours truly.  I have a small bladder and a penchant for Diet Coke.  Also, I was traveling with five kids.  It stands to reason that we were going to stop quite a bit.

Mistake #1: Consuming either Diet Coke or coffee most of the time I was in AK.  It's been proven that caffeine stimulates appetite...so I would drink, then I would want to eat.  Bad.

Mistake #2: Relying on gas station food more often than I should have.  Because I was imbibing ridiculous amounts of caffeine, I was eating...I've already said that.  But...what I was eating?  Crap.  Junk.  High-carb stuff.  I was making bad choices, for sure.  I do remember a stop in Healy where I purchased a string cheese stick, a hard boiled egg, and beef jerky - that might have been the healthiest I ate during all the driving.

When it came to regularly scheduled meals, I did fine.  Sort of.  Probably too much fat and protein, truth be known.  But better than refined and processed, right?  Maybe.

Anyway, now I'm home.  Both my husband and I stepped on the bathroom scale after an eleven-day hiatus...and it is definitely time to get back on track!  For whatever reason, I did not partake in my usual morning cup of coffee, nor did I consume any Diet Coke until well into the afternoon.  But guess what?  From eight o'clock a.m., when I ate my oatmeal, to noonish when I ate lunch with the kids, I felt no hunger whatsoever...no raving desire to consume food.  I must try the experiment again tomorrow.

So, the prodigal daughter returns to her kitchen.  I'm probably going to start back up reading my Julia Child; however, I've got a new project brewing (besides the no-storebought bread challenge), and it involves the Glycemic Index.

Happy week all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Alaskan Cuisine

I have been a visitor of the state of Alaska for about four days now, and I have not sampled the local cuisine yet.

I'm not sure Alaska has a local cuisine, actually.  So far, it's been pizza, grilled chicken, chicken patties, Wendy's, red velvet cake...

Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I think will be different.  We will be attending an Alaskan Salmon Bake!  More details then.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A One-Day Challenge

Even though I had three weeks, I did not fulfill my freezer-cleaning-out Challenge.  However, that is in the past.  Today brings a new challenge.

I have one day to clear out a significant portion of my refrigerator, which contains these items:

Dozen eggs
Four cups spaghetti sauce
Oranges
Head (and a bag of prewashed) lettuce
Six cups thawed chili
One bag unpeeled carrots
Half of a loaf of bread
Half container cottage cheese
Five hot dogs
Leftover Tater Tot casserole
A gallon of milk
Half a package of hamburger buns
A partially-used package of diced ham
Lunchmeat

The menu today stands as thus:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and ham

Lunch: Leftover TT casserole for kids, chili and salad for us

Dinner: Hot dogs, spaghetti

Snacks: Cottage cheese

My primary concerns are the spaghetti sauce and the milk.  Looks like it's calcium overload today!

We are very likely doing a big breakfast before we get on the road tomorrow, so I've decided to pack the following for snacks and "lunch" along the way: oranges, sandwiches, and carrots.

Corking good plan, yes?

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 27 - Grocery Bills - End of the Month

I'm back!  Well, relatively speaking.  In three days, I will leaving for ten days as I vacation to Alaska with my entire family.  However, I will try to jam-pack the next three days with some culinary goodness for all my readers.

Let's see.  School is now out, and I have not quite caught the cooking bug like I thought I might.  I attribute this to a general lack of ambition; with the impending trip, I am in "scavenge" mode...getting creative with the contents of my freezer and pantry items.

In addition to the Memorial Day holiday, this weekend marks the last grocery shopping trip for this month...and you know what that means, end-of-month totals!!

But, first, the weekly pie chart.

 First of all, we did go camping this holiday weekend, and because of that, certain categories tend to be inflated, such as "Snacks" and "Beverages".  The meat purchased this week was only cold cuts, which will provide lunch for my children who are now home for the summer.

For future reference, I will refrain from buying cheese from the meat counter guys.  A pound of colby longhorn ran five dollars...maybe this is par for the course??  Dairy products just seem so darn expensive - my 16 oz. tub of Fage yogurt was nearly five dollars!  Of course, my feminine health is very important to me, so I will probably keep shelling out the beaucoup dolares for the yeast-killing stuff.

Here's the exciting news: for the second month in a row, my grocery bill has fallen under $400...this time by $46 dollars.  And, my family is still eating well!  They are not starving!  They are not malnutritioned!

And finally, check out this last bit of data.  My husband (Mr. Meticulous) keeps track of all our bills in a red 3-subject notebook, including our grocery expenditures.  This last fall, we decided to place all grocery purchases on my ATM card, where I would easily be able to keep track of amounts.  In the beginning, we just wanted a baseline for purchase amounts, but then we began to notice that grocery costs was an area that really could use trimming...especially after February (December was the worst, I know, but sometimes with the holiday season, one can be a bit more forgiving)!


The middle of March is really when I started actively seeking to reduce monthly grocery totals - coupons, sales, stockpiling, etc., all added to the significant decrease in March, April, and May's totals.

 To be honest, I think I've found the magical number for our family right now - $400 per month.  Yes, $350 was doable, but $400 would give me a bit more leeway with creativity at mealtime.  Remember, I am still reading Julia Child and will be trying more of her recipes this summer.

June should prove to be interesting.  Not only will I need to replenish my depleted freezer and pantry stores once I return from Alaska, but also devise clever ways to keep costs low now that I have another meal to provide for my three children during the summer.  I think one way might be to double-batch casseroles - leftovers for the kiddos the next day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Omelettes: Adequate, But Not Mastered

I said I would post about my omelette experience, and I hate to let down my dear readers, so here goes.

I don't remember my mom making them much when I was a child, and when she did, it seemed an arduous process.  She would lift one edge of the mass of coagulated eggs and tilt the pan, letting the uncooked mess spill underneath.  Then, she'd manage to tuck it nicely into a half-moon shape on the plate.  But, like I said, I don't remember her making them often...I mostly associate omelettes with restaurant breakfasts.

For all my many kitchen successes, the omelette has been the one epic failure in my culinary repertoire.  In the recent half-decade, I can remember four separate attempts at omelette-making, and all resulted in my throwing in the towel and just scrambling them in frustration.

Enter Julia Child.  I decided it was time to conquer my fear of omelettes.

I read the passage in her cookbook about omelette-making, reread it again, and still didn't quite have the grasp I needed to pull it off.  I am a visual learner, you see, and the pictures just weren't doing it for me.

Enter www.youtube.com and Julia Child Makes Omelettes.  A quick search pulled up a six-minute video of Julia making omelettes, and that provided the visual I needed.  I watched it three times before I felt the confidence to proceed.

First, I assembled my army, as seen here.  Eggs and butter are the essentials, obviously.  Ham and cheese are the extras.  Oh, and the empty bottle of Tassel Ridge wine in the background?  Not part of the list of ingredients!
After heating the small 7-inch pan, I melted a pat of butter, letting it foam.  The heat is important...the butter pretty much needs to sizzle and melt on contact.  When the foam subsided, I poured in my two eggs (beaten).  Eggs cook rather quickly, and after five or so seconds, mine looked like the above.  Right around here is when I swirled my pan in a circular motion several times over the heat to distribute the uncooked eggs.



Then came the tricky part.  Per Julia's instructions, I tilted the pan up and jerked it back towards me...several times, trying to get the mostly cooked egg mass to roll down towards the far lip of the pan.  THIS REQUIRES PRACTICE.  My husband was watching me attempt to roll the omelette, but he did not respond as I shrieked at him, "It's not rolling!  What do I do?"

Eventually, the thing kind of flopped over, so I transferred the product to the plate.  A sprinkle with parsley and omelette #1 was done.  And it didn't taste too bad, either!

By this time, my children were clamoring for one, so I made three "filled" omelettes.  The first one turned out okay, but #2 and #3 experienced some falling-apartage...but nothing a little rearranging on the plate and a sprinkle of parsley didn't fix. 


Long story short, I am *not* the master of omelettes...but it is not as daunting as I once thought it was.  I let go of the notion that omelettes must be a perfect half-moon shape and instead embraced the messy, eclectic rolls I turned out four times.  My husband was amazed at the terribly short cooking time (thirty seconds, tops), and there was nary a clean plate after breakfast this morning.  As you can see in the above photo, all children appear to be satisfied.

You can have your oeuf and eat it too!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Groceries - May 20 - Rapture

This Week's Spending: $44.18   Total Grocery Expenditures for May: $267.16

Heather's Tip of the Week: Grocery shop on a Friday night when you are:
a.) very tired
b.) full from a great dinner
c.) towing the entire family

I guarantee if you do these things, your grocery shopping trip will be short, thus, relatively inexpensive.  Why?  Because you want to get things done so you can go home and take a hot bath, watch 'Glee', and read your copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" before you collapse from exhaustion around ten o'clock.  You won't waste time deliberating over whether or not to buy lunchmeat this week...you just won't.

Spending-wise, though, May is shaping up to be a pretty sweet month.  I really, really don't regret that forty dollars' worth of hamburger I spent earlier this month, because it's paying itself forward now.

Again, dairy and produce account for nearly a third of the total - which I think is good.  Eggs were not on sale this week and neither was cottage cheese ($2.79 for the cheap store brand at HyVee?!).  I would have to say that Dairy was definitely the No-Bang-for-the-Buck category this week.  Two containers of cottage cheese and two dozen eggs for nearly ten dollars?!  Perhaps it is a sign of the impending Rapture...

The Beverage category consists of a bottle of wine - a local (Indianola-local) winery on sale for $8.  That was my husband's idea.

Yeah, and I suppose I've got to do something about that bread category.  $1.34 a loaf is not terrible, until I recall that I can make my own for much, much, much cheaper.  Perhaps it is time to take a year-long No Store-Bought Bread Challenge?  Who dares me?

The last week of school is now upon us, and I wonder how that will affect my grocery tab.  I theorize spending will increase somewhat with home lunches now being added into the fare, not to mention snacks, etc.  Also, after we get back from Alaska, our stores will be fairly depleted, so it will be time to rebuild.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oeufs and Ends

First off, let me just say that not even one week into the three-week No Restaurant Challenge, this family folded.  Like a fragile house of cards in a gentle breeze.  I've cooked decent meals all week long, and tonight I felt like being catered to...and I felt like a steak.  So, I got it, and I enjoyed it, and I'm not going to feel bad about it.  At all.

Moving on.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of watching the movie Julie & Julia.  Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a 30ish something who seeks to find meaning in life by cooking her way through Julia's cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".  The parallel storyline is of Child's trials and tribulations in the 1950s.

Anyway, enjoying food and cooking myself, I took a great deal of interest in this movie.  In fact, I was impelled to purchase the paperback version of Child's cookbook at the bookstore recently.  I have been content to read it over the last few days, and I am finding it very enjoyable.  This cookbook has a sense of humor (suggesting eight-year-olds can make Hollandaise in the blender).

So far, I am through Soups (which seem very delicious and doable), Sauces (v. daunting), and Eggs (of great interest).  I am a fan of eggs, but I've never really been terribly creative about cooking with them.  I know how to fry them, poach them, scramble them, and bake them...and that is about it.  About four times in my life I have been compelled to try making an omelette...and I have failed every time.

However, I have determined that this is the weekend that I conquer the omelette.  I will document the epic battle in another post.

Also, I am itching to try making pie crust a la Julia Child.  I never have before, but according to my mom, my grandmother made excellent pies, so maybe I have the magic as well.  Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe also looms on the horizon, but I may have to wait until school is out and I have all my faculties about me before I attempt it.

In other food-related news, in addition to the ten-cent cottage cheese cookbook, I also picked up a cheap beef pamphlet-type cookbook (courtesy of the makers of A1 steak sauce, circa 1990).  The recipe for meatloaf was pretty darn amazing:

2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 c. A1 (natch)
1 c. bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 c. of minced green pepper and onion each (which I actually did not have, thus, I used a 1/2 c. of dried tomato and pesto seasoning...close enough, right?)

After shaping into a football-looking thing, I placed the meatwad in a baking dish (not a loaf pan) and spread a thin coat of steak sauce on top.  After baking it for an hour at 350 degrees, our family of five nearly obliterated the entire thing (but not before I procured two lunch servings for Brent and I).  Man, it was really good.  Then again, our family likes meatloaf in general...and so, can there ever be a *bad* meatloaf?

Finally, rounding out this random spew of food-related topics, I woke up this morning earlier than usual...to the banging of cupboard doors.  My twelve-year-old son was in the midst of making himself scrambled eggs...and doing it with much aplomb and success.  Then, some thirty minutes later, my ten-year-old daughter proceeded to make scrambled eggs for her little brother, and then a serving of "Taco Eggs" for herself (a sprinkle of taco seasoning added to egg mixture before cooking).  No smoke alarms, no exclamations of "Uh Oh", no discarded burnt eggs in the garbage...

With the exception of the early-morning kitchen racket, I am love, love, loving that my children are comfortable (and able) enough in the kitchen to make themselves an easy, good breakfast without any supervision. 

I think I will pat myself on the back as well...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Groceries This Week and The Three-Week Challenge!

Now, this is what I'd like my pie charts to look like every week:

Somehow, I just can't get around buying condiments!  That's been a slice in my chart the last several weeks...this week, it was jelly for my kids' lunchtime PB & Js.

The snacks slice is a bit bigger than I'd like, but I took advantage of the 2/$4 deal on graham crackers (got some frozen homemade cream cheese frosting I need to use up - hence, improviso s'mores!).  Also, Ritz crackers to substitute in for the "Lunchables" my daughter wanted to buy for her soccer games on Saturday.

But, fresh produce at nearly a quarter of spending?  Yes, that's awesome.  My cart was laden with watermelon, apples, oranges, and muskmelon.  YUM!  The significantly smaller 'Meat' slice is due to a small purchase of lunchmeat for weekly wraps and sandwiches.

I am pleased with the variety of spending, as well as the low receipt total this week.

Spending This Week: $60.86  -  Total Expenditures: $222.98

Onto to the really fun stuff.  Less than three week remain until our family departs for the great state of Alaska for several days.  I have been issued a challenge by my husband:

"Let's try to eat down as much of our freezer and pantry as we can before then."  Also, he included this corollary: "No restaurants until Alaska."

If you go back through my October archives here, you'll read about our month-long-plus adventures of no-restaurant eating.  It was no problem then, and I anticipate the same now - it's only three weeks, for goodness' sake.

So anyway, Mr. Nelson, the game is afoot.  The challenge is on.

Also, let me briefly, here at the end of things, express my sheer, utter pride at my daughter.  I prepared a carrot cake this afternoon that was a complete EPIC FAIL (double amount of sugar *sigh*).  It was to be our dessert for this evening's meal.   Kirby proceeds to inform me that she can make cupcakes in her Sunbeam cupcake oven for our dessert.  She then does it!  Mostly by herself.  I only had to help work the mixer and fill the muffin cups.  It was glorious!  I love watching her move around the kitchen, knowing where everything is, feeling comfortable in it, etc.  *sigh*

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Cookbook Inventory

Not that this is terribly surprising, but I am a cookbook collector.  Of course, I've had to exercise enormous restraints when it comes to cookbook purchases, because I am also the antithesis of a packrat...and if I'm not using something, I'm quite likely to give it away or pitch it.

But, I found this little gem at a garage sale today that I could hardly pass up.  It definitely appealed to the kitschy in me.

Pub. Date: 1950
Yes, indeed.  That does read "Creative Cooking for Cottage Cheese".  My husband expressed his amazement to me that such a cookbook could exist.  Fabulous recipes include: Blushing Pink Chip Dip, Cottage Cheese Straws, Up North Salmon Supper, Pinwheel Meat Roll, Spinach Pudding, Frozen Fruit Cheese Salad, Cottage Tuna Mousse, and Peach Snowballs.

I know, right!?  Good thing our family loves cottage cheese - because we'll be trying some of these dandies on the dinner table this summer.

This puts me in mind to inventory all my cookbooks.  And why not do it for you?  I'll take things slow, I promise.

Pub. Date: 1958
Continuing on this nostalgic 1950's-era thread I've seemed to begin, here's another throwback I own.  -------------------------->
Oh yes, the ubiquitous Better Homes and Gardens Special Publications.  

This tome is devoted to salads...not the lettuce-laden concoctions we know today, but recipes that instead include: Cranberry-Tokay Salad, Melon Polka-dot Mold, Fruited Ribbon Loaf, Pineapple in Emerald Wreath, Peppy Beet Salad, Perfection Salad, Cheese-Aspic Peaks...and MANY MORE!

Pub. Date: 1978
Hark, the 1970's!  A time when many, many women were working outside the home, earning their own money, exercising their Constitutional rights, etc, etc.  Too bad the cookbook industry hadn't quite caught up with the Feminist Movement.  To be equal, this next cookbook should have marketed towards American People, as opposed to American Woman.    I suppose it's terribly ironic then, that I rely totally on this cookbook for a really good Creamed Sausage Gravy recipe.  Of particular note is a AWFULLY graphic picture of the Barbecued Short Ribs recipe...I am reminded of a gory horror movie scene.  To this book's credit, most of the recipes are comprised of ingredients I've heard of and happen to have in my stores.  You can't say that about many cookbooks today.

Pub. Date: 1976
To round out the "Kitsch" collection, let's bring things up to modern times.  And no cookbook evokes that nostalgic sense of cutting-edge technology than this little guy right here ------------------->
Why pay scads of money for a trip to Mount Everest or the Australian outback or Delaware when you can have an adventure in your very own kitchen??  That's the angle Montgomery Ward was going for, I guess.  This comprehensive cookbook contains a confusing Table of Contents - in alphabetical order.  That explains why after browsing "Appetizers", "Beverages", "Breads/Sandwiches", "Cereal/Rice/Pasta", and "Cheese and Eggs", I am all of a sudden thrust into "Defrosting and Reheating".

This cookbook is a bit more liberal with the ingredient list (one recipe for "Avocado Voisin" consisting of eighteen items leads me to three questions:  1.) what is a voisin?  and 2.) why are salt and white pepper listed twice? and 3.) what exactly does chef mean when s/he says 'few grains of salt and white pepper'?)  Of particular interest is the "Cheese and Eggs" section - since I'd like to cut back on cereal spending, maybe I'll need to consult this section for breakfast ideas.

And that's all I've got for the Nostalgic Section.  Hope you enjoyed it.

P.S. - This is just a small sample of my library.  Just you wait.