Here I am!!!

I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. At least I hope you’ve been wondering - I would hate to think I hadn’t been missed…

To tell you the truth, I’ve been bad…I snuck off to St. Louis and attended the 50th annual Midwest Magic Jubilee. Tony lectured and I helped host the hospitality suite. So what is a party full of magicians like? Well, you really have to be into two things 1) drinking and 2) magic. There is going to be plenty of both. We went through about six cases of beer, a couple bottles of wine, too many fifths of liquor to accurately count and tons of pop. All these liquids only served to lubricate throats and fuel discussions, gossip and tall tales. Magic parties tend to be pretty tame. Of course there was that one time when the German biker gang showed up…

Here is Whit Haydn. Whit is an old fashioned southern gentleman – some would call him a scoundrel, others would call him amusing…I fall into the later category. If you get a chance to see his show at the Magic Castle in LA, do it! For those of you who can’t get to the West Coast, here are some video clips from his website to tide you over.

Here is my souvenir from the convention: a donut.

It was sneezed from the nose of this man – Oscar Munoz. . I laughed every time he made a donut come out of his nose. Does that call into question my maturity level? Oscar hails from Texas and most of his performances are motivational shows aimed at elementary age kids. If your kid goes to school in Texas, there is a good chance Oscar has been to your school

And here are some of the members of the inner circle – those in the “know” so to speak.
From l to r: Mike Powers (a retired physics lecturer who now does magic professionally), Eric Grossman (bassist for K’s Choice), Jason Dean (a full time professional magician who tours with rock bands and performs in their green rooms), some pain in the butt kid who kept sneaking in, and my hubby Tony.

So what did I eat while I was away? Usually, I try to get out and eat at someplace new every time we visit a different city, but this time we were too busy. We stopped by our favorite Mexican place – Las Palmas. The food was great as always, and the service impeccable. I cannot say the same for the hotel restaurant (Hilton St. Louis Airport). The food was mediocre at best and the service was some of the worst I have ever received. I can only hope the convention organizers decide to change hotels next year.

On the way back, we stopped at the Blue Springs Café. It is a family style restaurant that specializes in “foot high pies”. While we were waiting on our lunch, two guys stopped in on their way to Chicago to pick up four pies to take back to the office. That made me really excited. The pies must be really good to make a special stop just for them.

The lunch menu has some good choices. I ordered meatloaf. It was nice – plentiful and moist, but fairly bland. The green beans were straight from a can without much flavor and the mashed potatoes and gravy were tasty but nothing special. I ate through the main course with the quickness so I could get to dessert: coconut meringue pie! I love coconut pie. A lot. I had seen the pies cooling on the counter as we came in, and all I could think about was pie. The pie came to the table…it was tall…it had height…it was a lot of meringue…over a pretty boring filling. I was crushed. The filling was just vanilla cream with a little coconut tossed in for texture. It was a tad too sweet when pared with an already sweet topping. The crust was a frozen food service crust – acceptable but not superlative. The search for the perfect pie goes on…

Once we got home, I had to see to the garden. When I left, it was being ravaged by disease and critters. Tate, my garden partner, had purchased a humane trap to try and capture our annoying neighbor, the groundhog. It has not worked. I am still finding half eaten tomatoes all over the yard. Bad groundhog! I’ll get you yet! As far as the diseases, they took out the monster zucchini and it is now starting in on my cucumbers. I pulled up the dying plants and had them carted away as biohazards.

On a more positive note, the hot peppers have been immune to any and all problems - boy, have they paid off in a big way.

I spent this afternoon making Agent Orange hot sauce from the 60 + habaneras that I picked this morning. The recipe came from this site run by Michael Stines. It was good – real good. It was hot – real hot. It made my nose run. It made the hubby hiccup. Then we went back for more. Yum!

So that’s it…it is not that I don’t love you all…but sometimes a gal just has to party!


Happy Birthday Julia!

In 1962, a woman walked onto the set of a WGBH interview with an omelet pan, a whisk, an apron, eggs and a hotplate. So began Julia Child’s career as a TV personality and guiding culinary light.

Personally, I remember watching Julia’s show as a kid – mesmerized by the different foods and cooking equipment that I never saw in my own home. Her passion, her personality made a whole foreign cuisine accessible to millions of people who kept a date with her every week. It was start of something exciting – the globalization of home cooking.

True, James Beard was the first TV celebrity chef, having starred in I Love To Eat back in 1946, but Julia, with her crazy hair, wobbly voice and wonky charm is the person that most people credit with being their TV cooking muse. I’ve mentioned before that Julia was definitely a “not ready for prime time” personality. There were no Hollywood good looks or family connections to get her started on the small screen – just Julia and her love of cooking. I like to think that if she were still here, she would be blogging with us too…

It was really difficult deciding what to make for Julia’s Birthday – my hubby was lobbying for either a) recreating Julia’s show with the giant lobster or b) pate. (He lobbies for pate on a regular basis, but until I work up some confidence, he is gonna have to settle for store bought!) I poured over her books, looked at my fridge and pantry – what the hell could I do that would be a fitting birthday present for one of the most influential people in my culinary experience?

Chocolate? Nah – Glenna over at A Fridge Full of Food already did that…plus I didn’t need any influence to love chocolate.
Salad Niçoise? Nah – did salad compose in an earlier blog…
Hollandaise? no….that wasn’t right either…
Finally it hit me! Julia was all about fresh food cooked correctly. I happened to have some very fresh eggs, a good pan and a hubby willing to eat anything for breakfast. Problem solved.

Here is my tribute: a simple omelet made according to the proper method. It was great. Moist and perfect. Another successful dish thanks to Julia.

Happy birthday, Julia. Thank you so much.

(For those of you who wish to make a Julia omelet, her handling is in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and also in The Way to Cook. The Way to Cook has great photos showing how everything should look as you proceed with the recipe. Check it out!)


Damn heat!

I have always been fairly lame when it comes to being a warm weather cook. When our side of the planet tilts away from the sun, I am at my best. Stews, soups, casseroles – if it sticks to your ribs, I can cook it! Summertime - I tend to stick to certain dishes – mostly grilled meats and corn on the cob. While I could eat corn on the cob every night of the week, the repetition gets boring for the rest of the family.

So in an effort to eat more veggies (i.e. use up the produce from the garden and the farmers' market before it goes bad), I decided to make a tuna salad. Not the mayo based, pickle relish containing, white bread filling of our child hood, but a composed salad, something fresh with a vinaigrette. I would say it was kind of like a salad nicoise but without potatoes and hard boiled eggs. Boiling potatoes and eggs would have meant turning on the stove in an already sweltering kitchen. This girl was just not into that!!

Twenty minutes of sweating and chopping later, voila! Rosie’s Salade Composée. I served this with bread and lemonade. After a few bites, I was a cool and composed as my salad. Sweet! Another summer triumph!

Rosie’s Salade Composée

6 cups of washed mixed greens (I used romaine and some spicy greens)
3 cucumbers, peeled, large dice
12 green onions, chopped
4 baby zucchini, sliced
1 banana pepper, cleaned and slivered
8-10 oil cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, large dice
1 large can of good quality tuna, drained
salt and pepper to taste


1 t Dijon mustard
3 T white wine vinegar (you can use tarragon infused vinegar if you like.)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced or squished through a press
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash, clean and chop according to your preferences. Arrange the ingredients on chilled plates, lettuce first, then however strikes your fancy with the tuna on top.

To make the dressing: Squish garlic into a bowl, add the vinegar and mustard to the garlic. Whisk in oil slowly until emulsified. Drizzle over salad. You could top with some fresh chopped herbs if you like – tarragon and parsley are nice.

A side note: God as my witness, once we buy our own place, I am going to set up an outdoor kitchen where I can cook and not heat up the entire house. We have no AC in this apartment, so it kills us to do any advanced cooking indoors. Summer kitchens go back a long way, but when we invented AC, people didn’t need to worry about the heat generated, so we no longer saw any need for having a separate kitchen to do our cooking during the summer. Plus, the amount of food processing the average household does has been reduced to a minimum. I mean, how many people actually can 50+ quarts of tomatoes every summer?

I started thinking about an outdoor kitchen when my brother looked into buying a house built in 1865. It still had the original outbuilding that was used as the summer kitchen. So not only are we getting back in touch with an ancient tradition, we would be conserving energy at the same time. Maybe summer kitchens are an idea that deserves to be resurrected?


Turn up the lights...it's dim sum

It’s Saturday Morning. The offspring is gone to Kings Island for the day. The parental units rejoice. It means coffee and a newspaper in bed. It means Tony running around the house in his undies. And it means I can make wolf whistles without hearing the word “gross!!” from the peanut gallery.

Best of all, it mean that we get to go out for lunch and eat what ever we want. I had a hankering for dim sum. Lil’ bites of Chinese goodness. Tony and I used to eat dim sum every weekend (pre-baby) at a little restaurant down on Campus, but it has been long closed. A couple other places here in town claim to serve it, but generally it is frozen dumplings that are thawed and held until ordered. They are nasty, sticky and wholly unappetizing.

I love the internet though. I did a little search and came upon a review for Lee Garden Restaurant. The review was about three years old, but it promised dim sum seven days a week, until 1:30 am in the morning. So I gave the restaurant a ringy-dingy and sure enough – dim sum every day, but only until midnight. I guess you can’t ask for everything.

Located near Sawmill and 161, the restaurant is hidden around the side of a large strip mall. I had been driving by it for years and never known it was there. The inside was quite and dim, with several two and four tops filled and a large table twelve sitting in the middle of the dining room. Everyone seemed to really be enjoying their selves. Another point: everyone there except us was Asian. I guess it’s kinda like the rule about truckers eating at the good diners…

We were asked which menus we wanted to look at. It seems there are two or three specialty menus, including the dim sum menu, a Korean noodle menu, plus something else I can’t remember (Yeah, yeah I forgot to take notes. Sue me!) While the noodle menu looked good, the dim sum was what we came for.

Lee Garden does not have little carts that get wheeled around like some of the dim sum houses in the larger cities. Here in the sticks, you get to mark your choices on a badly copied paper menu and your dishes come out straight from the kitchen.

The first items to catch our attention were the chicken feet. Yes, I said chicken feet. Black Bean Chicken Feet, to be precise. Our waitress was impressed that we wanted to order the chicken feet. I think we shocked her by asking for them first. She asked incredulously “You like chicken feet?” For those of you who have never eaten the foot of a chicken, it is damn tasty. (Too good for any bird to walk on!) That’s about all it is though. It is salty, garlicky and has a gelatinous quality that makes you mouth happy as you eat it. Here is Tony proudly displaying his chopstick skills for your viewing pleasure. See? Doesn’t that look good?

My next favorite was boa. What’s a boa? No, it’s not something that showgirls wear around their neck. It is yeast raised bread that is stuffed with Chinese bbq pork and steamed. It makes the bread soft and moist, with a sweet/savory filling. See? They look like ‘lil white clouds in their steamer. Savory pillows of lusciousness. Isn’t that sweet?

Tony also ordered some black bean spare ribs. They are prepared in the same manner as the chicken feet: smother in a garlic black bean sauce and steamed. However, they are cut into tiny one inch pieces so they cook quickly. They are still chewy though, so it makes you work for your dinner.

Then we moved onto the stuffed dumplings: crystal buns, shiu mai, pork and shrimp dumplings and shrimp and scallop dumplings. All of these dished have finely minced fillings that are then wrapped in dough and steamed. Most are based on a wheat dough like those used to wrap egg rolls. However, the crystal buns and the shrimp and scallop dumplings are wrapped in rice dough that goes translucent when steamed. They almost seem gemlike with the pink and white of the seafood showing though their skins. That doesn’t stop me from sending them down the hatch however.

Now you can’t go to a new restaurant and just order the safe food you always order every place else you go. You have to ask your wait staff what they recommend. Having passed the chicken foot test, she started recommending items for us. Her chief recommendation was the Golden Shrimp Ball. At $3.95, it was one of the most expensive items on the dim sum menu. We said, “Bring it on!!” They looked weird. They were big and golden brown and um…messing looking. But being brave souls, we dived it. It was great. The coated
turned out to be rice noodles that had been wrapped around a minced shrimp mixture and then deep fried. And the price was totally reasonable for the three balls that we got. Tony made some jokes about emasculated jumbo shrimp while we ate them.

I also ordered taro dumplings. The online review had recommended them. So I jumped in. They were weird. And not in a pleasant way. The filled was minced pork that had been coated in a taro paste and then deep fried. The outside was kinda crunchy and oily and the inside was slimy from the taro paste. Blech! I should have taken heed when the waitress asked, “you want taro dumplings?” with an odd look on her face.

So that’s it! Our dim sum adventure. We are definitely going back. It might even become a weekend ritual: ditching the kid for an adult feast once a month. However, once she reads this and finds out we know where to get chicken feet, I think the jig will be up!

Lee Garden Restaurant
2685 Federated Blvd
Columbus, OH 43235(614) 764-1525

Oh ye of little faith...

These pictures are for my two coworkers who did not believe me when I said zucchini could get really big. First, a photo of the zucchini monster with my lovely daughter Annie for reference.

And this is the baseball bat that I stubbed my toe on while harvesting the embryos of said monster for ummm..further research. This one had hidden under a leaf and was left to its own devices. I put it in Tate's harvest basket, to his great amusement. He even took it to a barbarque to show to his friends. Of course it wasn't edible at this size, but we definitely got some mileage out of it!