8.30.2005

Is that Fall just around the corner??!

It’s getting close to...THAT TIME!

COOKIE TIME!!

Every Christmas, Gail, Debbie and I make metric tons of cookies to feed all of our co-workers, friends and family. We sit down at the end of October and make a game plan, then keep an eye out for specials on ingredients like butter, nuts, chocolate and other pricey items. Then, on an appointed day in mid-December, we gather at someone’s house (usually an unsuspecting person with two ovens and a dishwasher) and bake, bake, bake.

We have developed rules about the types of cookies we make. Here are a few of them:

  1. No chocolate chip cookies. Those are everyday cookies and this is Christmas dammit.
  2. No peanut butter cookies. See number 1.
  3. Cookies are divided up equally. Except when Gail’s husband Jim is around and cookies disappear at an alarming rate, then we dun her for his sneakin’ ways.
  4. There will be no drinking. Every time Debbie gets a few drinks in her, she is up on the table and reliving her days as a “dancer” at the Thirsty Eye.
  5. No feeding cookies to the monkey. Too much sugar..and he goes bananas.

The whole tradition started out as a cookie exchange at work. The first year, we had eight people and everyone was on the same page. Everyone brought a dozen cookies for each person. We notified the others in the exchange what each person was bringing in advance so there was no duplication. We packaged each person’s dozen up nicely. It was really great.

Second year, fifteen people signed up. Seven of those brought either peanut butter or chocolate chip, hence rules number 1 and 2.

Third year, we were back down to eight people. We had one gal bring Chip Ahoys. That was the last year we did the exchange.

However, we did like the whole sharing cookies thing. December is very stressful when you are working retail, and when the crew sees us bring in a big platter of cookies, they get big smiles on their faces and a sugar high that lasts all day.

As the season progresses, I’ll let you folks know what kind of tasty treats we will be baking up this year. Until then, eat all the chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies you want!

8.28.2005

IMBB 18: Out of frying pan into the humidity…

Fried food..yummy yummy…

If it hadn’t been for fried foods, I would have starved as a kid. Burgers, chicken, pork chops, liver, carrots (yes, carrots…), calves’ brains...my mom loved frying food. I don’t fry as much as she did, but it is still one of my favorite ways to cook.

To fry, you must have the right tools. I have two types of pans I use constantly. The first is a cast iron skillet. I have four different ones, including my mother’s 10” and a 12” that I bought for myself several years ago. The second is a good Teflon-coated skillet. I have an 8”and a 12”.

Cast iron is good for frying meats, green tomatoes or just about anything that needs to keep a constant temperature. The Teflon pans are for my eggs, pancakes and French toast.

When I saw the theme for this month’s IMBB, I immediately thought of two items: pan fried pork chops, and green tomatoes. My pork chops are fairly basic: nice rib chops, sprinkled with seasoned salt (the all purpose red-neck seasoning) and pepper and seared off at medium high heat until slightly pink on the inside. No grey pork. It is a sin to overcook fine chops and there is a special hell for those that do. It is right next to the one for people who drive while talking on their cell phones.

So after a struggle with my taste buds, I decided to wax poetic about fried green tomatoes. It IS summer after all. Plus, people are talking about the Eat Local Challenge, and walking out my back door is about as local as you can get.

I didn’t like green tomatoes as a kid. A little too tart for a young palate, but once I got older, I learned to appreciate this uncomplicated dish. I usually make a big batch at the end of the summer, when you have to pull the last of the unripe tomatoes off the vine before clearing the garden. Also, it is definitely a frugal dish. I like that. And it makes people get all misty-eyed when you serve them on the side of some good barbeque pork.

So without further ado…

You’ve seen the movie…

You’ve read the book…

Now experience…FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!

(No lesbians or long pig in this recipe though…)

Fried Green Tomatoes Rosie style

3 to 4 medium sized unripe tomatoes

1 cup corn meal

Seasoned salt

Black pepper

Red pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Core and slice tomatoes into ¼” slices with a sharp serrated knife. Set aside.

Mix corn meal with the spices. This is strictly to taste. I usually go a little heavy on the salt, and add just enough red pepper to make the taste buds sit up and take notice, but not enough where you get a burn. Mix thoroughly.

Dredge the slices in the cornmeal. A very thin layer of seasoned meal should cling to the moist areas. This is what you want.

Heat your oil in a cast iron skillet on medium high. The tomatoes should sizzle when they hit the oil. Cook until brown on one side then flip and brown on the other. Do not keep flipping them back and forth. This is how the meal falls off.

When the tomato is soft and yields to fork pressure, it’s done. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Or if you wanna be fancy, drain on a rack over paper towels.

Eat while warm. Of course, the cook may need to sample the first couple slices to make sure all the seasoning is correct. You know how that is.

8.25.2005

Chillin' Lakeside


After long nights partying with little sleep and living on caffeine…Steve and Lisa invited us to join them in a trip to the Lake of the Ozarks.

What is the Lake of the Ozarks you ask? It is really the river valley of the Osage river that has been flooded when the Bagnell dam was built. It looks like some kind of crazed caterpillar. It has over 1100 miles of shoreline and the main goal of everyone along that shoreline is to party like madmen.

Steve’s house is directly opposite from Augie Busch’s house..yep..that’s the guy who owns the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Augie likes to party like a madman too. In fact, very few people on the lake seem to want to do anything on the lake other than party.

If you are not partying on the lake…you are eating… You name it…you can eat it. There are bars and restaurants right on the waterfront…not just drive throughs but boat throughs. Nothing like pulling your boat or jet ski up and some bikini clad lass runs out and asks “Can I help you?” She proceeds to fill your tanks and bring you food. Now that is service.

The most quirky place we ate on the lake was The Dummy. We are not talking about great food. Some homedone bbq and lots of food service stuff, but the best thing was deep fried creamed corn fritters. They looked like they came out of the litter box, but damn good tasting. The juke box was half rock, half country and half Jimmy Buffet (yeah yeah yeah...if you know Buffet music...then you know how that math works…)


The best place we ate on the lake was Kay’s Home Cooking. All you can eat breakfast for $6.95. Best. Idea. Ever. And it is not a buffet. There is a real live sassy wai
tress bringing you as much food as you can pack down your gullet. The list included, but was not limited to: pancakes, French toast, omelets, gravy and biscuits, sausage (link and patties), home fries, eggs any way you want them…I am sure I am forgetting something…but you get the idea. Steve, Lisa, Annie, Tony and I sat down and ate for about an hour straight. After swimming and riding the jet skis, you can build up a big appetite.

Most of the time though, we cooked at the house. First night, I made Baked Chicken ala Tony with green beans and boiled red potatoes. We went shopping at Wal-mart. I usually don’t shop there, but when in Rome… I opted for frozen French style green beans, even though there were very nice fresh beans available. I was just being lazy; I didn’t want to snap beans before dinner.

After getting back to the kitchen, I took the chickens out of their plastic only to discover they were still frozen on the inside. Plus, the chickens looked like they had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. The spine had been separated from the ribs and the skin was torn in places. I had planned on doing beer can chicken on the grill, but the condition of my battle weary chickens convinced me to bake them instead. I improvised a quick brine from soy sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and some Italian herb blend that were in the cupboard. Then I went to watch Braveheart with everyone else.

Before Mel could bare his bottom, the chickens were on their way to the oven. I patted them dry, sprinkled them with more soy sauce, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne and put them into a 375 degree oven. An hour and 20 mins. later…dinner!!


The rest of the time we ate lake food… grilled steaks, pina coladas, lunchmeat sandwiches…low maintenance…but tasty.


The last thing I will mention about my vacation will be gooey butter cake. Those of you from St. Louis will know exactly what I am talking about… We encountered them because Debbie, my friend from work, grew up in St. Louis. Here is her list of must haves:

  1. Maul’s BBQ sauce
  2. St. Louis Style Italian Dressing
  3. Gooey Butter Cake

I was able to fulfill her wishes with a quick trip to
Schnuck’s, a local grocery chain. Of, course, I had to get one for us to try. It was not bad…a lil’ bland for my tastes, but in my opinion: if ain’t chocolate cake, it ain’t tasty cake. If you ever go to St. Louis, get one…otherwise the experience will not be complete.

So that is it for me and my vacation…

Next time:
sniff sniff… Is that my blog burning?

8.23.2005

I'm Home!

I am officially back from vacation.
Sob.
No matter how long I am away from work..it is never long enough.

St. Louis was a blast. My husband is a professional magician, and magic conventions are some of the most interesting affairs I’ve attended. The Midwest Magic Jubilee is one of the best. Top notch talent, friendly people and I helped host a kickass convention suite all three nights of the convention.

Hosting a party for magicians requires special planning. You have to have enough alcohol to lubricate the brain, but no grease to lubricate the fingers. Cards, coins and props, some costing hundreds of dollars, must be considered at all times. This means you have to be careful what types of snack are served. They can’t be greasy, or leave a residue on the fingers. They can’t require lots of drippy dips and salsas. That means I usually stick to dry roasted nuts, unflavored potato chips, cheese and crackers, and veggies. If I do serve dips, I make sure they are far away from where the action is taking place. Also, for this convention, we made an exception to the rule on the last night, but we’ll get more into that later. (Note all the wild and crazy antics in the picture to the right. That is about as exciting as it gets!)

For drinks, you have your usual: beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic. You never really know what people are going to drink so you have to guess-ta-mate. This year, it was pop and bottled water. Lots of both. Who woulda guessed…not me…I have a ton of booze left. Good thing it won’t spoil. That means I can make mixed drinks at home for the next 9 months. “If you like pina coladas..and getting drunk in the rain…” you all know the rest.

The last night of the party, Steve, one of the organizers of the convention, announced he knew a place that sold great pizzas. He and Lisa, his girlfriend, went out into one of the worst thunderstorms of the summer to pick up 64 pounds of pizza. That’s right. 64 pounds. That was four pizzas folks. They were the biggest pizzas I have ever seen in my life. Where are the pictures you ask? You would like visual evidence? I was so busy playing hostess I didn’t take any pictures of these giant pies..these kings of pizza-dom..no, not one pixel of proof have I. Ok, I am a sucky blogger. So sue me. All my guests had a great time.

Most of the food I ate was just fuel to keep me running. Lots of burgers and other fast food, caffeine in massive amounts, sugar and grease. However, we did get a chance to head to a small Mexican restaurant, Las Palmas on Woodson Rd . The d├ęcor was not..um..well..let’s say if you want sophistication, you need to try somewhere else. (If you are in doubt, check out their website, it fits the crazy atmosphere. And make sure you turn up your speakers!) If you want killer food and drinks…this is the place!

Being in need of as much food as we could eat quickly, the whole family decided on the combination platters. I had an enchilada and burrito, both with pork. Tony had a burrito and a chimichanga with beef and our daughter had a tamale and an enchilada. To supplement the rather plebian fare, we ordered a spicy shrimp soup. Having to drive back to the hotel, we decided not to get any of the margaritas. Our neighbors at the next table told us they were the best margaritas ever and had ordered a whole pitcher.

To tide us over until the main courses arrived, the waiter brought us fresh tortilla chips and homemade salsa. The salsa was rather odd, almost creamy in texture, but tasty nonetheless. Tony and I decided it would be great as a sauce over chicken and rice, but not with chips. The platters came out quickly. All plates had the required beans and rice, but what great beans and rice. The beans were cooked until creamy, with large chunks of bean left in for texture. The rice was moist and seasoned with lime and cilantro. The main course items were great…the enchiladas were not swimming in sauce; the burritos were full of nice moist meat. The star of the show, however, was the shrimp soup. Large shrimp swimming in a thin, spicy tomato-based broth, accompanied with diced onion, chopped cilantro and lime wedges along with warm homemade tortillas. After all that food, we didn't even think about dessert...and you know we had to be well fed for that!

Overall, Las Palmas has made it onto the short list for great places we have eaten on vacation. When we return to St. Louis next August, we are definitely eating there again.

Tomorrow…Lake of the Ozarks!

8.14.2005

Come Back, Rosie!!


I bet you wonder where I've been...I am sitting in a hotel in St. Louis, MO attending a convention with my hubby. I have lots to write about, especially food...and I'll have my report in as soon as I get two minutes to rub together.
Talk to you all soon!

8.07.2005

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH...lookie what I found!!




I love garage sales. It’s an interesting look at all the crap people consider useless in their lives. So far this year, one of my favorite sales has been that of an old lady who was clearing out all her knick-knacks. She seemed so happy to be ridding her life of unnecessary clutter. We spent some time discussing the weather, the unusual occurrence of men at her sale (we called it the Antiques Roadshow syndrome) and my daughter’s fascination in her tea cup collection. . I bought a couple of pieces of costume jewlery. They will be a nice memento of an afternoon chat with a stranger.

I also use garage sales to get my cookbook fix. So far, I have found a well worn Julia Child book ($.25) and a 1964 edition of The Joy of Cooking ($.50). Being obsessed with The Joy of Cooking (in more ways than one), I now own four different editions: a1946, a 1964, a 1976 and a 1997. Why so many, you ask? I like to see the continuity. The 1997 edition is so…PC. More ethnic dishes, more low fat, more vegetarian. It does fit today’s American palate, but my family is not a typical family so I use the 1975 edition more than any other.

Other things I like to buy at garage sales are:

  • Pyrex nesting bowls
  • Fireking bake ware
  • Muffin tins
  • Cast iron skillets
  • Interesting dinnerware
  • Unusual linens
  • Old board games (another one of my hobbies)

My house is slowly filling up with crap. I inherited all my mom’s accumulation of stuff: pressed glass serving platters, pressed glass deviled egg platters (starting to see a trend?), pressed glass bowls, pressed glass salt and pepper shakers, jelly jars (only some are pressed glass), cast iron skillets, plates, glasses plus tons more. Mom was a packrat and so am I. One day, I will be able to dump my ever growing collection of crap on my daughter. And boy, won’t she be grateful.
“Mom, I don’t make deviled eggs!”
“Shut the hell up and take it. It belonged to your grandmother!”

8.04.2005

Bachelor cooking at it’s finest!

I think the majority of my friends consist of single men. Most of them I inherited when I married Tony. Our home is like Neverland (the one in the book, not the one in California. No one here has any plastic surgery or an unnatural desire for little boys. Or even a natural desire for little boys.) Every so often, one or more of the gang will stop up to see what is happening. I think it is the smell of home cooking that attracts them.

Single men tend to eat in “Bachelor Style”. Lots of instant food (Ramen noodles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, TV Dinners), fast food, and some “food” (and I use that term loosely) they cook for themselves. The king of Bachelor Style food in our group is Eric. In particular, his “macaroni and cheese”. This is Eric’s recipe.

  • Boil the macaroni until it is mushy.
  • Dump into a bowl.
  • Put hunks of sliced cheddar on top.
  • Microwave until cheese melts.
  • Eat.

His roommates, all single guys, have commented on how nasty it looks. Eric claims it is edible. I will take his word for it.