A note to let you know I am not dead...yet.

Well, I have tons of stuff I need to write up - but one of my coworkers had his lung collapse and he is stuck in the hospital until given a clean bill of health. Meanwhile, back at the ranch,we had a stampede of cattle - I mean, we had a lot of customers placing large orders, so my personal time has been sparse. I should have my coffee maker review up by the end of the week - so stay tumed for another installment of "How the Stomach Turns".


So whats we gonna be eatin' tonight?

Well, Kit of Mango & Ginger tapped me to tell you all about my top 10 favorite foods. The problem has been not what foods to include but what foods to eliminate from the list. Of course, I had to retest some of them to make sure I really like them enough to make the cut.

  1. Bacon- The though of eating wonderful smoky, salty fat makes me feel a ‘lil faint. I love thick cut slab bacon fried up crisp. I love the though of bacon rind cooked up with greens. I love how the salt cuts through the overpowering sweetness of syrup or pumps up the ripeness of summer tomatoes. Tony claims that he has heard me murmuring sweet nothings to bacon in my sleep. Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon - now I know how that dog feels!

  2. Salt – There are days when I could eat a big old spoonful without blinking. Those are the days when men should stay out of range. Hell - women, children and small household pets too!

  3. Cheese – Yes. All of it. From Cheese in a Spray Can to runny ripe Brie, cheese has won my heart. It was a favorite after school snack when I was a kid, cheese sandwiches saved my life in college and now that I am a woman of wealth (comparatively speaking) I love buying new and exciting cheese to try. Curds and Whey in the North Market and Whole Foods have a siren call that I cannot resist. Cheese, cheese, cheese - put some bacon with it and you can have your whey with me.

  4. Pasta Puttanesca – Let me start off by saying that I hate all jarred pasta sauces. Sure, sure, sure…I know you will tell me that such and such a brand is very good and I will have to spit in your eye. When compared to a real sauce made at home, they all pale. So about 14 years ago, I picked up a book on pasta at the library and saw a recipe for pasta puttanesca. I never turned back. In our house, the dish is known as “Good Woman Pasta”, as the word puttanesca was too hard for our daughter to say and “Whore’s pasta” just sounds wrong coming out of the mouth of a six year old.

  5. French Toast – My love affair with “Pain Perdu” began when I was a kid, like so many others of my favorites. My mom would make French toast for me and my brother on snow days. I remember the Blizzard of ’78 especially well – we ate a lot of French toast that winter. The big difference between my French toast and my mom’s is that I use denser bread and soak it for a little bit. Mom used stale Wonderbread. It was a way of transforming the mundane into something special. Anytime you can perform culinary magic like that – you know you have a winner.

  6. Biscuits – I owe my biscuit making savvy to my ex-mother-in-law. (Yes I was married before – but that is a story that needs to be told over lots and lots of alcohol.) Glenna was a nice Southern lady who had grown up making biscuits and cornbread every day of her life. She used a coffee cup to measure out the self rising flour and always had buttermilk in her refrigerator. I make decent biscuits. They are acceptable, but they cannot even hold a candle to Glenna’s. I do not miss my ex, but I sure miss his mom’s cooking.

  7. Chicken Livers – Ok, I know I heard several of you make retching noises. Shame, shame. You just never had liver prepared correctly. My favorite way is lightly dusted with seasoned flour and fried in bacon grease. (Hmmmm – back to bacon, are we?) They come out crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. With some cornbread and greens -damn fine eatin’!

  8. Mashed Potatoes – Mashed potatoes are essentially four ingredients: Taters, milk, butter and salt. Who would have thought those four basic items could create the food of the gods? I’ve been known just to make mashed potatoes as a snack - but I love them best with number 9 on my list.

  9. REALLY GOOD Gravy!- I think it’s a shame that its been such a long time since I’ve eaten gravy (other than my own) that had been made from scratch. Sorry folks, really good gravy can’t be had from a bottle, can or powder. You have to brown meat, you have to roast meat, use the fond and the juices from the meat. So simple, yet done wrong too often! It’s time for a gravy revolution brothers and sisters! More meat! More good gravy!

  10. PIE! All things PIE! – Some people love ice cream, some love cake, but I love pie. Pie in the sky and pie in your eye! The dessert of comedy! No one ever got hit in the face with Crème Brule! Fruit pies, cream pies, custard pies – put that filling in a flakey crust and you have my love forever. As a child, the yearly church picnic would send my heart into palpitations as I surveyed the dessert table with its spread of tarts and meringues. My contribution? Need you ask? Banana cream pie, of course.

So there they are my favorite foods laid out for your perusal. Surprised that chocolate wasn’t on the list? Well, to make it up to myself, I am gonna make a chocolate cream pie this weekend. Who says I can’t have my chocolate pie and eat it too?

Since we are playing tag, I am tagging Sher of What Did You Eat? for the Ten Favorite Foods meme. And to prove the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, Kit of Mango and Ginger gets tagged for the Ten Random Facts meme. Good luck ladies! I look forward to reading your entries.


I writ at random, very doubtfully.

Wow – Ten Random Facts about Myself. Hmmmmmm what deep dark secrets should I reveal? Sarah of Dining with the Headhunter tagged me - so if you can’t sleep tonight, blame it all on her!

So here we go:

  1. I am an illustrator and graphic designer for magic instructional textbooks. Not that kinda magic - the sleight of hand, pick a card any card kind. Don’t believe me? Check out Lee Asher’s website. I did Three Stylin’ for him! Honest! He’ll vouch for me!
  2. I am collecting as many versions of the song “Junko Partner” as I can locate. The fascination all started with a recording my hubby made in New Orleans of James Booker, a jazz pianist. I have since located three other recordings of the same song by Booker - each one is totally different being dependent on what kind of mood he was in that night (or more likely, what kind of drugs he was on). I have about six other versions from various artists.
  3. I have a mutant stomach. It is shaped like a “J” instead of the normal “kidney bean”. I found this out a while back when I was having digestive problems and they looked down into the maw of hell during an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. The best thing about the whole procedure - they give you great drugs. As I was coming out of the twilight sleep, the doctor told me about my malformed stomach. I looked at my hubby and said “You always suspected you married a mutant – now you know for sure!”
  4. I threw myself into Buckeye Lake when I was five years old. I was tossing bread into the water for the ducks and tossed one piece just a lil too hard - in I went! My dad jumped in and pulled me out, soaking wet and scared but unharmed. My uncle, who had the cabin on the lake, would tease me about “feeding yourself to the ducks” for years afterwards.
  5. I play board games every other Friday night. Not Monopoly, Sorry or any of those plebian games, but hard core Euro games, like Puerto Rico, Carcassonne and Tigris and Euphrates. We meet in the back room of the local gaming shop and battle it out all night. It’s a great excuse to eat crappy junk food, stay up until 3am in the morning and gloat when your friends lose to you. It is a toss up as to whether I spent more money on cooking equipment or board games last year. And before you say it - Yes, I am a geek.
  6. My favorite snack when I was a kid was Cheese Wiz on toasted cracked wheat bread.
  7. I love Terry Pratchett’s books. I think he is the best humor fantasy writer ever. Yeah, that’s what I said. You wanna fight about it? Put 'em up, put 'em up! I can fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I can fight you standing on one foot. I can fight you with my eyes closed. Sneakin’ up on me huh?!
  8. I would rather watch an old movie like The Gay Falcon or a movie serial like Daredevils of the Red Circle than most of the drivel that passes for entertainment on cable tv. I really love going to movie conventions like Cinevent, sitting in the dark on uncomfortable chairs for 4 days and watching movies I can’t see anywhere else. Now that’s entertainment!
  9. I buy really ugly Pyrex to use in my kitchen. The best deal so far: two large bowls in avocado green and harvest gold both for .$25. Yup, two bits. For two really ugly bowls. They hold a boatload of potato salad though.
  10. I like to collect Godzilla toys. My daughter used to get mad when she was little because I wouldn’t let her play with them. She once said, “You have more toys than me! That’s not fair!” It’s not, but now she has her own collection of Neopets that I’m not allowed to touch. So there!

So there it is! Ten Random things you would have been better off not knowing!

I am still thinking about who to torture - I mean tag for this meme - stay tuned for updates!



YEAH! My box of goodies is here! My secret food buddy was Tami from Running with Tweezers and she sent me up a box of southern goodies.

First off is some green tomato relish from South Carolina – I served this with some smothered pork chops tonight. It was damned tasty! Another recipe for me to figure out, darn it.

Next creamed honey from Georgia- it was very tasty in my morning tea.

A Sangria scented castle – the only way to get lit without drinking the real thing! One of Tami’s friends makes these candles. Go check out her website: www.plain-n-simple.com. Personally, I think that stress relief candle would be a good thing too - after I am done with my Sangria that is.

A Lavender Chocolate bar – ok, I can’t decide if I like this or not. It’s chocolate, but it’s got flowers in it. I kept eating it to see if I could make up my mind. Now, I need to buy some more to finish the decision making process.

Some homemade five-spice, cinnamon ginger shortbread cookies – these were great. I snacked on them with my after dinner coffee. Very subtle. Definitely a keeper Tami!

Flavors magazine-an Atlanta based magazine about food and restaurants. This could come in handy, as we have a friend who is trying to convince us to go with him to Dragoncon down in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.

And lastly, an awesome CD of music that Tami calls “The Bake Mix”.

Thanks a ton Tami! You were a great food buddy!


HERE's your 30 minute meal! Now bugger off!

Wow - what a crazy two weeks! Things have been going haywire, and I hope it settles down so I can get some serious eating done!

I have been remiss in my blogging duties. I have missed Is My Blog Burning 22, Weekend Cookbook Challenge #2, and SHF #16. However, I did get to participate in Blog By Mail 4. My secret food buddy was Maya of The Town Tart who lives in Venice, CA. Head on over to her blog and check out the trials and tribulations of her kitchen remodel. I have serious oven envy now. Six ovens. Some people have all the luck!! I am still waiting on my package from my secret food buddy, but I still have high hopes that it will be here soon!

I have been tagged for two meme also. One from my buddy Sarah at
Cooking with the Headhunter (10 Random Facts About Yourself) and one from Kit at Mango and Ginger (Top 10 Favorite Foods). The Random Fact meme is giving me fits, mostly because my whole life is random and the ten favorite food meme - don’t even get me started! How the heck can I narrow it down to ten?! Maybe ten categories? You know - like Sweet, Salty etc…that might give me a fighting chance.

So foodwise – our household has been put on quick meal notice because of my crazy work schedule. When I get home from work, the food has to be on the table in 45 minutes or less. On the way home Wednesday night, I stopped and performed my mid-week perusal of the local produce section. This week’s foray yielded a head of bok-choy for $1.00. With my well stocked pantry, I came up with Mom’s Lo Mein. The hubby said it was more like Chinese Spaghetti, since I used dried linguini for the pasta.

Chinese Spaghetti (as this dish will now be known) is one of those dishes you can create as long as you understand the basic principles of the type of food you are attempting to make. Of course, I am not lucky enough to have a high BTU burner in my kitchen, so this isn’t
really like Lo Mein but considering that I ended up with six servings for about $1.50 each, my checking account and my tummy were happy!

I always carry the following in my kitchen:
  • Dried Pasta of various types
  • Soy sauce
  • Black Bean and Garlic Sauce
  • Vietnamese Chili Sauce
  • Broth
  • Carrots
  • Ginger (frozen)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Fake Crab (frozen)

Here is the procedure in a loosely described fashion.

Get your mise en place together first. Chop the onion, garlic and ginger and place together. Cut the carrots into matchsticks if you have time, if not, just cut into uniform pieces so it all cooks evenly. Same with the mushrooms. Bok-choy - well there is a special case. I usually cut off the green parts and slice them into shreds, then dice the lower white portion. Keep the two parts separate, you’ll see why later. If your bok-choy is a little limp - and we all have known how terrible it is to have a limp bok-choy in our life at one time or another – you can soak it in some nice ice water to perk it up. Have nappa cabbage? Use that. I once even used romaine lettuce in a stir fry. It wasn’t bad - but I don’t know if I would do it again. If I could have found it on sale, I would have grabbed a bag of the broccoli slaw stuff. That would have been perfect noodle fodder! I ended up with about 8 cups of veggies all told, including the bok-choy, which is going to shrink down a lot. The more veggies the better!

Do the same with your meats. If you are using raw meats, slice them as you would for stir fry. I also had a little bit of shrimp left over from a party I had thrown the previous weekend (that’s the topic of another post, once I reconstruct my memory). You could also throw in leftover chicken or pork. Just add the already cooked meats last in the process so they are just warmed through. I had about a pound of shrimp and fake crab.

Once all your veggies and meats are prepped, now you get to make “the sauce”. For one pound of pasta, I did one cup of sauce. It kinda went like this: 1/2 cup of broth, ¼ - 1/3 cup of soy sauce, and black bean sauce and chili sauce so that everything equals one cup. You may be saying to yourself: Isn’t this going to be too salty? The answer is no. The noodles are bland, the veggies are bland, and they need all the salt they can get to taste good. Especially the noodles - they are a neutral starch. Don’t have black bean and garlic sauce? Use hoisin or oyster. Don’t have any of the above? Just use soy sauce. Trust me, it’s gonna be ok.

Put your water on to boil for the pasta. I did not salt the water. Actually, you can do that before you start your slicin’ and dicein’. (I told you, this is a freeform recipe thingy.) Any pasta will do as long as it has some heft to it. Spaghetti, fettuccini, linguini - if you have wide rice noodles you probably could use those. Cook them until done, drain, set aside.

Now you get to stir fry your fixins’. If you are using raw meat, do that first. Add a tablespoon of oil to the wok, a little of your onion, garlic and ginger to the oil. Stir fry the meat until done. Remove and set aside.
Next, the veggies. They need to be added so that the ones that require more cooking go in first. Add a little more oil to the wok, then the rest of the onion, garlic and ginger. Then the carrots, cook a couple of minutes, then the bok-choy stems, cook a couple of minutes, then the mushrooms, repeat the cooking procedure. You should have a big mélange of veggies all cooked about the same amount now. Add the bok-choy leaves. Toss until the leaves are wilted.

Add the noodles. They may have congealed into a big mass of starch, but it’s ok. They will separate. Dump your sauce over top of the noodles and toss. The noodles should come apart. Well, they did when I did it. (If it bothers you, you could always rinse them in cold water when you drain them to prevent sticking.) Toss the noodles and veggies around until the noodles have absorbed a good amount of the sauce. Now add in the meat, either left over or freshly cooked. Toss. I added a little black pepper at this point and the last of a bottle of Chinese sesame oil.
Pour your crazy noodle dish into a large bowl and serve. I pulled out some chopstick and some fun bowls to put everything in.

Like everything of this nature, it’s even better the next day. Annie even took some in her lunch, the true hallmark of a well cooked dish.

Half the fun of cooking is the challenge of making something tasty on short notice. You can’t be afraid to try something off the wall. Trust me - my family will let me know when I make something inedible. Think of this as jazz cooking - taking what is available and creating some new harmonies with a little syncopated rhythm. Jazz not to your liking? Try a little Salsa. Got some canned sardines around? They work great in noodle dishes. Despite what your mom said, play with your food. You’ll enjoy it more!


Hmmm hmmm good....hmmm hmmm good...

Adam, The Amateur Gourmet, make me laugh. Today, I read and loved his poem about his misadventures with peanut brittle. He ended up with a batch of peanut brittle soup. Now, 500 miles away, I was in my kitchen making brittle as well. Ironically, I was using the very same recipe and it turned out brilliantly. Take a gander at my food porn, baby!

The recipe in question came from Craft of Cooking by Tom Collichio. Adam found it vague and confusing, hence his pan of soup. I had no problems understanding exactly how the recipe should turn out in the end, hence my tasty, hip hugging treat. Was it the recipe or was it the cooks?

Let’s take a look at the recipe:

Peanut Brittle

2 c sugar
¼ pound unsalted butter

6 T corn syrup

¾ pound dry-roasted, salted peanuts

1 ½ t salt

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a non-stick baking pad (or lightly but completely oil the sheet.) Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1 1/3 cups of water in a large pot. Heat over high until the sugar melts and the caramel turns amber. Stir in the baking soda, then remove the pot from the heat and add the peanuts and salt. Mix well, then, using a metal spatula, quickly and evenly spread out the mixture out on the baking sheet. Allow the brittle to cool and harden. Break the brittle into pieces and serve, or store in a covered container.

I think the answer is: a little bit of both.

Unless you have made candy every year since you were a kid, you probably would never understand “Heat over high until the sugar melts and the caramel turns amber.” Most candy recipes give you temperatures and stages, maybe even nice photo illustrations showing what color “amber” is. Shame on the author for assuming that everyone reading the recipe would be clairvoyant.

Now that we’ve taken the recipe to task, let’s look at why an old fat chick got the recipe to work and sexy, young Adam did not.

I shall start with my candy making background. I was a source of slave labor every Christmas when my mother would make candy to give away to the multitudes that descended upon our household during the holidays. Guess whose job it was to watch the caramel while my mother was off punishing my wayward brother? You got it! Somehow, I have a feeling that Adam’s mom never forced him to watch boiling pots of sugar, instead allowing him to run free… to express those creative urges that allow him to amuse us even to this day. Which, of course, explains his remarkable kitchen chops. At least when it comes to peanut brittle.

So some tips to remember when you are looking for recipes that venture into uncharted territory. Read the recipe through twice, maybe even three times. If there are ANY doubts about how the recipe should proceed, look up similar recipes from reliable sources and compare. When tackling something like candy, find a good reference that will give you the basic science behind the process. By educating yourself on how the chemistry works, you increase your chances of success. This doesn’t mean you will not end up with a bowl of peanut brittle soup, but hey – you did your best!

PS. Adam, if you REALLY need that peanut brittle fix, I will be more than glad to send you some of mine!

Where the hell did THAT come from?

I like to get up in the morning and read the news feeds. It puts perspective into my world view: the frailties of man, the oddities of everyday life and so on. Possibly, it is the only thing that keeps me from killing strangers on the way to work in the morning. I thought I would share with you a couple of articles from today’s news since I find it so enlightening...

Yum! Yum! Personally, I am partial to the Louisiana Back-Bay Bayou Bunny Bordelaise. Da-roool, da-rooool.

I just want you to know - the next time you hit a deer and total your car – you are supporting our boys in Iraq.

My daughter recently introduced me to Google Video. In case you don’t know what that is just head on over to http://video.google.com/ . It is pretty self-explainatory. In compliance with Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of it is crap but the bit that is good is a blast to watch. These were two things I found while wandering aimlessly this morning.

Critics annoying you while you are cooking?

Kid tested – mother approved!

Alright – I PROMISE I will have more interesting food items soon. Really. Honest. I'll have BBM 4, some adventures in bread baking, pies, more meat and a product review. In the meantime, amuse yourselves. Eat some pudding or something....