Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of the consumer....

Me! That’s who!

Oh yes – to the lady who hung up on me rudely yesterday –Kiss my grits baby! Pucker up and plant one on my ample backside. Just because you have an emergency (i.e. you procrastinated) does not mean I don’t have other work that needs to get done first. Just wait – my minions are lurking in the dark waiting for their moment. Car run out of gas? That was me. Cat puke on your $150 silk blouse? That was me! I’ll get my pound of flesh…karma’s a bitch and so are you!

There…all better now…

So work has been sucking lately…go figure…it’s called “work”, not “let’s go out, drink a few drinks and dance like idiots”. There has been way too much work and not enough hours in the day – so lots and lots of overtime. Which means lots and lots of extra funds even though I have very little time to spend it. Thank god for the internet! Instant gratification!

I have been canning though…so those posts will be coming along soon…

The tale of the pork chops that weren’t pork chops…

I’ve gotten the hubby to admit he has a truce with eggplant – who he has hated for years…

And a shopping note:

I get the annoying Food Network newsletter – I love junk mail. And they were touting the new line of Niegella Lawson products – because God knows it is more important to know what type of products she endorses than the kind of food she cooks…

The good news is – they are having a fire sale on Tony Bourdain’s books and since he is not the huge product whore that the rest of them are – there are only books. In particular, the Las Halles cookbook is marked down to $19.95 plus shipping. It’s a great book and now you have no excuse not to buy it.

The definition of a whore product? The Paula Dean’s bagel and egg toaster appliance thingy . WTF? Like I need an appliance that poaches eggs – PA-leeeeeze. I got a sauce pan and cooking chops baby – I don’t need no hybrid freak toaster!

I also wanted to say “Congratulations” to Barbara over at Strawberries and Tiger on the birth of her new addition, Kat. Barabara - That smile – it’s just gas. At least that is what my mom claimed – and who am I to argue with her wisdom?


Vagaries and Jam

Since starting this blog, I have really been looking back at my “eating” history. It’s made me all nostalgic and wistful. I have been craving foods I haven’t had since I was a little kid and my mom still cooked dinner every night and put up all types of amazing preserves and pickles. Specifically, I have been craving tomato preserves.

“Tomato Preserves?” you ask. Stop being a sissy. Yes, sweets made out of tomatoes. When I told Gail, Debbie and my assistant manager, Lori, that I was making sweets with tomatoes – well you can imagine the skeptical reactions. Even Tony, the adventurous eater, was more than a little wary of something this strange.

I have my mom’s recipe for tomato preserves. Here is a scan of it – written in her own hand. (I laughed out loud when I saw “Tomatoe”. My mom used to be the person who busted my chops for not being able to spell!) Not really much of a recipe. It is really more of a note.

I have quite a few of these culinary “notes” including this one for my grandmother’s Date Cake.

And the even more vague Dutch Cake.

Ummmm..thanks Mom. I should be grateful I even have this much to go from. I suppose that back when most women knew how to cook, a few bits of “shorthand” was enough to get by.

Time to play recipe detective! Off to the web we go!

There are lots of variations on tomato preserves. Lots of them use green tomatoes. I can see that. Anyone who has ever had a large garden know about left over green tomatoes at the end of the season…along with all the other half grown produce you just can’t let go to waste.

However – I have a lot of RIPE tomatoes to use. So onward!

Here is an interesting entry from 1855. Not what we are looking for – but the site was damn interesting. I was distracted and lost a whole 30 minutes.

Finally, I found an entry that said “Tomato Preserves – also known as Tomato Marmalade”. It’s true! This recipe relies on the pectin in the citrus to thicken it up – just like a traditional marmalade. Google – here we come!


On the University of Wisconsin Extension site, I found a recipe that seemed to be vary similar to my mother’s note – however – they cluttered up the flavors with cinnamon and cloves. How dare they! Isn’t the clean taste of citrus and tomato enough?! Harrumph!

Time to look in real live books it seems. I pulled out my copy of the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery published in the late 40’s and took a look. A very similar recipe to my mother’s except it used a knob of fresh ginger as the only additional flavor.

My conclusions:

  1. Use the UWEX recipe as the baseline. It includes everything spelled out in clear terms and even talks about the necessary procession times.

  2. Dump the spices and just add the knob of ginger from the Encyclopedia.

  3. I wished I had been able to ask my mom about her chow chow recipe for she died so I don’t have to do this for that recipe as well.

So with lots chopping, peelings and stirring-and more stirring- and even more stirring by Annie – I came up with a nice version of my mom’s tomatoe (sic) preserves. It tastes pretty much as my hazy memory remembers. I spread some on toast and took it in to Tony. He looked at it. He sniffed it. Then he took a bite. “WOW! It doesn't suck! It's even good!”

I gave a jar of it to Gail, Debbie and Lori for a final taste test. Lori came back the next day and said, “I ate a half loaf of bread for dinner last night because of this…thanks for sabotaging my diet!” Debbie said that she loved how you could smell the tomatoes in it the moment you opened the jar. She ate a half loaf of bread too. Gail and her hubby Jim, however, have not tried it to date. I think Jim is just an old scaredie cat – it won’t hurt ya Jim! Eat it already!

So here it is - a reconstruction of a childhood memory. And a damn fine way to have a little bit of summer all year long.

Tomato Preserves

3 quarts ripe tomatoes (about 5 ½ pounds tomatoes)
3 oranges
2 lemons
A piece of fresh ginger about 1 inch wide by 2 inches long
6 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Yield: About 9 half-pint jars


To Prepare Fruit and Spices – Peel tomatoes; cut tomatoes in small pieces. Drain. Slice oranges and lemons very thin; quarter the slices. Tie ginger in a cheesecloth bag.

To Make Marmalade – Sterilize canning jars. Place tomato pieces in a large kettle. Add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved. Add oranges, lemons and spice bag. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil rapidly, stirring constantly, until thick and clear (about 50 minutes). (To test thickness, use the cold plate test: Remove all the jam from the heat and pour a small amount of boiling jam on a cold plate. Put the plate in the freezing compartment of a refrigerator for a few minutes. If the liquid gels, it is thick enough.) Remove from heat; skim off foam. Fill hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner.


I was at the farmer’s market the other day and a woman walked up the booth where I was browsing. The folks at the booth had bags of basil for sale. She wanted to know –“So what can I do with this?” So the farmer and I started talking about pesto – and how you could freeze it. She said – that sounds like too much trouble. Too much trouble?! You throw the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on! Lazy cow. The fresh basil is too good for you anyway. Why don’t you go down to Giant Eagle and pick up some readymade for your pasta. Leave the good stuff to those of us who appreciate it.


That's a mighty fine ass you have there...

I love cranky...this guy is wonderfully cranky

He is The FoodAss.

Read his rant on baked chips.

Freakin' awsome.

P.S. He looks like Alton Brown's love child. Poor man.

Another Item to Waste Payroll With....

Since it is Monday Morning - I decided that you needed to see this.

If you haven't seen Instructables before - now is the time to look at all the inventive crazy stuff others are willing to share.

My favorite this morning - The Giant Fractal Pecan Pie.

Damn - that looks good.


Five Things You Gotta Eat Before Buying the Farm

Glenna over at a Fridge Full of Food…tagged me with “the five foods people should eat before they die” meme started by Melissa at the Traveler’s Lunchbox.

Of course, as with any list, it took me a while to narrow everything down to just five. Sometimes, food is such an ah-ha! kind of experience, much like the rest of life…when you taste certain things, it can change what you eat forever.

The first item on my list is Homemade Peach Ice Cream. (Actually, any flavor homemade ice cream.) I had a serious Ah-ha moment at my aunt and uncle’s house in Southern Ohio when I was about ten years old. We were the only kids at a family get-together and my uncle appeared with one of the old hand churned ice cream makers and set us to work (aka keeping us out of trouble). What seemed like days later, out came the most heavenly combination of freshly churned cream and dead ripe peaches. One bite, and the Dairy Queen soft serve that I had loved so much became a pale ghost of the REAL DEAL.

Second on the list is Fresh Sweet Corn right out of the field. Once you have the opportunity to get corn that has walked from stalk to pot in a few minutes, you will never buy another ear of plastic wrapped starch bundles ever again. Just can’t do it…and make sure you put a ton of fresh butter on it too with a little salt. None of those silly ass flavored butters… I wanna taste corn dammit, not chili-lime-rancid yak butter spread. Blech!

Third – I grew up calling them Sugar Waffles, but they have a ton of different names. The confections I speak of are deep fried pastries covered with that annoying powered sugar. The method of production is thus - dip a shaped iron into a batter then into hot fat. The batter expands, floats free of the iron, then gets pulled out and covered in enough powered sugar to choke a horse. The texture is almost like that of a potato chip. Totally addictive. They are usually found at fairs and carnivals - and occasionally in the kitchens of braver people than I.

Next – hmmmm – it’s getting harder – a really good made-from-scratch cake. Most people either buy from a bakery or pull out a Duncan Hines cake mix these days – it is so easy to bow to convenience instead of taking the time to measure and mix from scratch. Even my mom, who used to make everything from tried and true recipes, switched to box mixes later on. It was too easy not too. A not too sweet cake with an even crumb and homemade icing is a joy to eat – just ask my friend Gail. She made us the most fantastic cake for our 10th anniversary party six years back. I still drool when thinking about it. It was a yellow cake covered in the most incredible apricot butter cream icing. If you are having a special occasion – bribe her to make it for you. You won’t regret it!

Lastly – (is that a real word?) – We bloggers have been talking about all the great food that everyone should try. How it will change your life to eat a certain great dish from here or there, but how can you tell good from bad without a reference point? Ying and yang, folks. Tomorrow, if you are a parent, I want you to go to your kid’s school, get in the lunch line and buy the Hot School Lunch. It will give you a new perspective on the term “Badly Cooked Food.” Take a look at the menu for your local school. They are usually listed on the school websites. Frozen breaded chicken patties, canned soups, frozen pizza, Uncrustables - Uncrustables?! You mean frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that have the crust cut off? Damn. Now that’s bad. Maybe that’s why Annie wants to pack her lunch all the time…

So that’s it for me, boys and girls –

I am tagging
Lisa over at Restaurant Widow
Anthony at Bachelor Cooking


Bring out your dead!

Well – it’s over. Our local grocer, Jubilee Foods, closed it doors today. I was kinda sad to see them go. I’ve been shopping there for twelve years now.

I didn’t do the majority of my shopping there, but they were my go-to place for odd items like microbrew quarts of beer or if I needed a loaf of French bread and a gallon of milk for dinner. On the other hand, there are a large number of older folks who lived within walking distance of the store who shopped there every week like clockwork. For me, it’s like a distant relation passing. I imagine for some of the regular shoppers, it’s like loosing a member of the immediate family.

That said – I have to admit I hovered over their dying corpse like a vulture, picking up deals as they put all their items on clearance. I picked up a lot of items that I would never have purchased at full price, like organic canned tomatoes, but when marked 70% off the original price, who can resist? Not I! And not my fellow vultures who lurked beside me the last two weeks.

Like so many other businesses in the country, Jubilee struggled because we vote with our wallets. The little shops have to compete every day with the big guy down the street – and we as consumers are always looking for the best deal. Would I buy my meat from Jubilee? No. They did not have a butcher onsite. I literally drive 30 minutes one way once every three months just to get good custom cut meat at a reasonable price. What does that mean to Jubilee? Another nail in the coffin.

So much of my time as the household chef is spent trying to get the most for the least. The best quality – at the best price. It is one of the reasons why I can’t justify the cost of grocery store organics. Are they really better? Do the benefits really outweigh the higher cost? I believe a lot of people think the same way. If you are on food stamps and limited to $400 a month for a family of four, are you going to spend that extra dollar a pound for organic tomatoes? Right now, organics and other specialty products are the province of those that can afford it. The rest have to squeeze Mr. Lincoln until he cries uncle.

So while I am sorry that Jubilee is gone - I really did enjoy getting those jalapeno stuffed olives at 70% off. Hmmmm...maybe there is a Sam’s Club being badly managed somewhere …Hey! A girl can dream, can’t she?


Hang in there baby!

The first week back from vacation was absolute hell. All my regular customers found out when I was coming back from vacation, then decended like locusts. And me in the middle of a serious canning jag as well. I have lots to talk about - but its gonna have to wait until my live slows to a managable pace - whee!!

In the meantime, sign up here for some free chocolate from Nestle.

It's free. It's chocolate. How can you go wrong?