Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Italian Cooking, the Overwhelmingly Authentic Way

For Christmas this year, one of my presents was a Gastronomique-size tome simply called, La Cucina, edited by the members of the Italian Academy of Cuisine and recently translated into English. This is the sort of massive cookbook that you know you'll never get the whole way through in your lifetime. It won't be for lack of trying, however, if you're like me and love trying foreign foods, the more "real", the better. There are thousands of recipes using almost every type of ingredient that could be dreamt of, from eel to chamois to wild thyme to grape must. This is the type of book that makes you feel inadequate as a cook from its sheer cornucopia of dishes. The book is organized into chapters by course: Antipasto, Soup, Pasta, Fish, Meat, Vegetables and Dessert (plus one chapter I've missed). It also includes the region from which each recipe originated, providing a little geographical and historical context for each meal--especially useful for Italian-Americans trying to get a "feel" for their roots. When I get over my initial feeling of awe and actually cook something from La Cucina, I'll be certain to post a review here. Until then, Buongiorno!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Failed Culinary Experiments

Where do recipes come from, if not from one person trying to see if two or more ingredients go well together? In this spirit of culinary adventure, I like to try something a little different now and then, sometimes discovering a great taste I never knew before, but more often than not, inventing a dud. Today I came up with some such wash. I tried topping warmed-over Christmas Plum Pudding with shredded cheddar cheese, melted in the microwave. I couldn't detect the cheddar other than as an odd aftertaste. My guess is that Plum Pudding, being such a profusion of flavors to begin with (rum, sugar, various dried fruits), is so potent that nothing could possibly be added to enhance it, not even decent cheddar cheese (such as shredded Kraft, or "fancy cheese" to all of you Boondocks fans). Oh, well. In discovering one thing that doesn't work, to paraphrase and put a twist on the thoughts of Thomas Edison, you've come closer to discovering the thing that will.

On a sweeter note, I did find via a blind taste-test administered by my younger stepson that expensive cinnamon really is superior to bargain supermarket cinnamon as far as taste alone (not smell) goes. My apologies to those who, like me, are of Scottish descent and attempt to squeeze each penny until copper juice flows.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Savings

I like when I find that something that I needed or even just wanted to buy is much lower in price than what I was expecting. I really, really like it when I find that I can obtain some such item for FREE. Now, I myself enjoy a good pictorial calendar with stunning photos or humorous/retro drawings as much as the next person, but as we've heard everywhere and known ourselves, the economy has been hobbled for quite some time. So when I found a website that allows you to create your own month-by-month photo calendars for free, I thought, "Awesome!" You simply choose from the stock photos already on the website or upload your own personal photos, enter in the specifics of the month you want, then print away! So far, the site is only offering calendars through the year 2011, but if we have the postage money to spare next year, we may very well send out 2012 calendars featuring family photos instead of Christmas cards. Happy New Year!

Disclaimer: It would only make sense that this website would offer calendar making for personal use only, due to proprietary and legal issues.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chow Mein Cookies

These cookies are both surprisingly easy and surprisingly delicious. They are a holiday favorite with me and mine, as my mother traditionally made them for special occasions (such as Christmas). Try them for your holiday celebration. You won't regret it!

Chow Mein Cookies (Makes 2-3 Dozen)

2 Five-ounce cans Chow Mein Noodles
1 Twelve-ounce bag chocolate chips
1 Twelve-ounce bag butterscotch chips

Pour both bags of chips into a large saucepan. Melt slowly over low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. As soon as the chips are melted, stir in both cans of chow mein noodles. Stir well to coat. Immediately drop by tablespoon onto baking sheets covered with waxed paper. Allow to cool completely. You may store the cookies in the refrigerator, freezer or out in a cool location. Enjoy!

On the Right to Carry

The right to carry firearms is guaranteed by the Constitution so that citizens may be permitted, without interference, to carry their weapons while traversing and otherwise being present on public property. This right does not extend to private property. The Bill of Rights, just as it is expressly designed to protect an individual's right to own, carry, store and operate guns, is also expressly designed to protect the rights of private property holders. Therefore, a person's right to carry ends at the front door of a private residence, business or landholding. Beyond that, it is a privilege, not a right, that is bestowed upon the carrier by the property owner. If I forbid guns in my grocery store, that does not interfere with your right to carry. It only interferes when I go beyond the bounds of my private property onto public property and still attempt to dictate your right to bear arms.

Also, it is not only the weapons operated by the body that can protect us from tyranny in these United States, but also the weapons of the mind. Next time you put your gun down, pick up a book.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Long-winded Wednesday

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here's a thousand and then some, which would make this post long-winded. In going through old piles of junk to make room for new piles of junk, I came across this newspaper clipping I'd been saving for three years. I believe my original purpose was to submit it to Jay Leno's "Headlines" on the tonight show for my five seconds of fame, but that submission never occurred. Now that I have my very own special web log and I feel that Conan O'Brien got royally screwed, I've decided to share this clipping here.

I've got just one bit of advice for children who wish to announce their parents' anniversary in the local paper: if this is the best photo you have, maybe you should save your money and publish a text-only celebration.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bacon Cheese Sandwich Casserole

Here is a twist I put on a recipe from a 1950's Betty Crocker cookbook. I made just two ingredient additions, but I think it's a winner. Crispy, like a savory French toast, it makes a filling supper or novel breakfast.

10 slices bread
5 slices cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Grease a 13" X 9" baking dish. Place five slices of bread on the bottom of the dish. Arrange slices of cheese over slices of bread. Break each slice of cooked bacon in half, and place three bacon halves on top of each slice of cheese. Top each open-faced sandwich with another slice of bread.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs, milk and seasonings until blended. Pour the entire mixture over the sandwiches, making certain that each sandwich is moistened with the egg mixture. Refrigerate dish for at least two hours to ensure that the egg mixture soaks into the bread.

Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for one hour or until golden brown on top.

Serves 4 (or two with huge appetites!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Milk

Here's a recipe for a cool-weather beverage that I recently came up with. The flavors are reminiscent of fall; it's great for a chilly evening at home. Try it!

Pumpkin Milk

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk (based on mug size)
2 T. pumpkin
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. vanilla extract
brown sugar or brown sugar substitute to taste (1-2 T. suggested)

Combine first two ingredients in large mug. Add cinnamon stick. Microwave on full power for 1 min 30 seconds (varied based on your microwave). When warm, add vanilla and brown sugar. The cinnamon stick can be reused for additional beverages.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day: A Bittersweet Holiday

1. Columbus' first encounters with Los Indios were peaceful. Columbus himself was not a great conquistador, just a lost chaser of figments.
2. Many American Indians would recall this holiday with ire, and rightfully so, but the mixture of cultures, however just or unjust, is what shaped the America of today, with all its faults and glories.
3. White Americans would do well to remember with sadness the atrocities visited upon the Naturals in the centuries following the second European contact but would also do well to remember that were it not for Colon, none of us would be alive.
4. May we use this day as a platform for looking forward, for insisting that the promises made to American Indians by our government be kept and that our remembrance, learning and celebration of First Nation and melting pot culture extend to every day.