Tag Archives: food


12 Jun

My life has been full of surprises this year.

I didn’t expect to move to another state.

I didn’t expect to find a beautiful 100% cashmere, beaded, Oscar de la Renta sweater at The Salvation Army store for $1.99, in my size. Sure, there is a tiny chip on one of the beads. Beads can be replaced, people! Would you give away a classic Mustang because it had a flat tire? I don’t think so.

I didn’t expect to see horizontal lightning while driving home from work. I’m pretty sure they don’t have that kind of lightning back in California.

I didn’t expect to get a bowl of soup with my meal when we went to lunch that day, but there it was…soft yellow, creamy looking, in a little white rimmed bowl, on a little white plate, served with a rounded spoon and two traditional cracker packets. Perfect.

“What kind is it?” my husband asked.

“Cold!” I exclaimed in surprise, “and lemony…or just sour.”

Confusion set in before I realized, with embarrassing clarity, that what I had tasted was not soup at all. This was the Italian dressing for the salad I had ordered.

Gingerbread House 101, For Those Who Have Experienced Gingerbread House Collapse

17 Dec

Candy decorations courtesy of my eleven year old.

There is one absolutely crucial fact you need to know to prevent structural collapse in your gingerbread home.

It is all about the icing.

If you want your walls and roof to stay where you want them, you MUST get the consistency of the icing right.

Sometimes the directions on the kit will tell you the icing should have the consistency of toothpaste.

Please note: Either they are deliberately lying to you, or else they are brushing with some seriously thick toothpaste! Don’t listen to them.

First of all, don’t even think of it as icing. Think of it as mortar. This will give you a more accurate idea of how thick it should be.

Be very stingy with your water. Make the icing so thick it will bend a spoon. Make it so thick it is like dough, and almost rolls into a ball. Use plenty of it. If you get it thick enough, there is virtually no “drying time”. This best if you have children. Kids like gingerbread houses but they do not like waiting. Waiting is boring. Ask any kid.

Remember that the roof sections of the house will need to fight gravity, unlike the walls. You may need to hold the roof for a few moments, until it sets, to prevent sliding.

When your house is firmly together, you can add very miniscule amounts of water to the remaining icing until it is thickly spreadable, but not at all drippy. Decorate the sides of the house before icing the roof, because it adds weight. The softened icing will allow you to do a little piping (with the bag and nozzle) and ice the roof.

A few other tips:

If your roof has a gap at the top, use more thick frosting and then cover with large gumdrops. No problem.

If you are piping (squeezing with the bag and nozzle) and your icing gets too soft from the warmth of your hands, pop the piping bag into the freezer for a few moments and it will harden up. Just don’t forget it is in there.

To make your house stick to the base, add icing to the undersides of the walls or just add some icing along the bottom edge after it is assembled to prevent slipping. If it looks messy, just slap some candy over it.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it were a job, someone would be paying you. Don’t get upset. It is only gingerbread, not your actual home. If all else fails, just break it apart, frost it, and call it cookies!

“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

3 Aug

I like short recipes with very few ingredients. I own a cookbook called “The Best Ever Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook” but I rarely use it, because I often make up my own recipes.

One of my simplest personal recipes is a potato and onion dish. It has four ingredients.

Before it cooks, it looks like this:

“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

potatoes (unpeeled)

onions (any color)

olive oil

Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning (by McCormick ‘Grill Mates’)


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the potatoes and onions in slices or chunks. (Thickness of the potatoes will determine the cooking time. Leave the onions thicker than the potatoes because they cook faster and you don’t want them to burn.) I like a mix of approximately 3/4 potatoes and 1/4 onion. Use a baking dish large enough to allow for stirring without overflow.

Mix the potatoes and onions in the baking dish with enough olive oil to coat them. Sprinkle generously with the Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning and mix well.

Bake, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of the potato pieces and the size of the baking dish. I have found that a convection oven works well and takes about 40 minutes, but the potatoes are less browned than they would be in a traditional oven.

Be Careful What You Wish For

17 Jul

I have spent the weekend primarily in bed, recovering from a particular type of illness.  My time tested self-medication includes: rest, water, ice, Canada Dry ginger ale, and Saltine crackers — in that order.

My menu has recently expanded to allow mugs of hot, salty broth and bowls of Wheaties seeped in rice milk.  The chicken tandoori being consumed downstairs has been politely refused; yesterday, the smell of garlicky pork nearly caused a relapse.

Only hours before the gastric rebellion commenced, I had enjoyed (courtesy of a dear friend) a remarkable meal delicately prepared by a short, mustached man with the name Gustavo embroidered over his heart.  He came to our table to explain each delicious course.  I remember a kale pesto, a risotto with white truffle oil, and some other things only barely within my food vocabulary.  Apparently, I was not meant to absorb the nutritional benefits of this feast.

Gustavo is not to blame, I want to make that clear.

I felt nauseated on the drive up to the city.  I had thought perhaps my belt was too tight, and so the belt was left abandoned in the foot-well of the car.  My dear husband had asked me earlier, “Is that what you’re wearing?”, so I wasn’t worried about spoiling my glamorous look.  Without the belt, I still felt slightly ill, but I chalked it up to the mysterious ‘car sickness’ I have heard about from others.  ‘There is a first time for everything,’ I thought to myself, rather optimistically.

I wished for my queasiness to go away long enough for me to enjoy a rare evening out.  My wish came true.

Earlier in the day, I had looked inside the pantry and wished for the ginger ale and crackers I had bought weeks ago to be consumed, rather than wasted.  That wish also came true.

I can think of better wishes, now.

Pomegranates: Simplified

12 Jan

When I was young, long before I knew of the various health benefits of pomegranates, I loved to eat them. 

I have not eaten many poms in adulthood, however, because of the hassle of opening them. I guess I’ve gotten lazy.  Or, maybe it has something to do with the fact that adults have to clean up their own messes…

If you have never tried to separate one yourself, and have only bought the bottled juice or the ready-to-eat arils, you may not know how messy and awkward opening a pomegranate can be, or about the dark juice staining your fingers and clothing… and, oh, whatever else it may touch.

Then again, perhaps you have heard about it, and that is why you never bothered to attempt it.

Once, I cheerfully bought a package of ready-to-eat pomegranate, cleverly saving myself the trouble.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to eat the entire package on my own, and I don’t like to waste food, so I encouraged one of the children to try some.  Well, he tried some alright, but unbeknownst to me the arils had been in the refrigerator too long by then, and they had fermented.  Pomegranate wine, anyone?

This wasn’t the first time a child in this house acted like I had poisoned him.  I am a good cook — a safe cook! —  don’t worry.  There is simply a flair for drama around here.  But, you never can tell when it might be a legitimate response, so I ate an aril myself, just to prove that I think they are very tasty, and it wasn’t some kind of mean trick I had played on the kid.

The taste was similar to the smell of rubbing alcohol.  Just…so awful.  I probably made the same pained face that he did.  Another lesson learned.  Now I always taste things before offering them.  Oh, and I don’t eat pomegranate arils if they are purple instead of red.

Oops!  Now I’m making pomegranates sound very unappealing with my anecdote.  Normally, poms are great, I promise.  I especially enjoy them in salads, but I’ll eat them straight. 

Someone recently told me about an underwater method of preparing pomegranates and I decided to try it out.  I was quite pleased with the results.

If you have ever been tempted by the sight of a whole pomegranate in the market, but felt intimidated by it, you might be interested in trying this method.

Basic directions: Cut off the top or crown of the pomegranate and make shallow cuts in the outside peel, following the natural sections of the fruit.  Fill a large bowl with water.  (I used a pot.)  Pull apart the sections and loosen the arils in the water.  The white membrane will float and the arils will sink.  Remove the membrane and strain the arils.  Enjoy.

Readers who prefer to SEE the process can find some illustrated directions here.  (Thanks to eHow.com)

I tried it with a hardened, older pomegranate which is why I didn’t take pictures of it myself.  Mine had lost its luscious red color and looked dry and highly unsuitable for promotional material.  Opening my particular pomegranate was a bit tricky because the skin was no longer flexible.  Ideally, I think the peel should bend back.  It was more of a breaking apart process with my hardened peel, but I was still able to remove the arils underwater without a mess.  I’m sure it would be even easier with a fresher pomegranate.

I tested an aril just to be safe (like I said, lesson learned), but truthfully, I didn’t have a use for so much pomegranate today.  Since I had opened an older fruit to begin with, I was obviously concerned about repeating the fermentation incident.  Luckily, pomegranate arils can be frozen or dried.  I decided to freeze the arils to toss into some muffins at a later date.

Persimmons are pretty good, too… but, I haven’t figured them out yet!

Less is More: Part Two

26 Jul

As I continue to find ways to simplify and get more results from less effort, I begin to wonder if I am being clever, or just very lazy.  Maybe both.

Recently, I made a baked peach dessert that looked very promising on paper,  but sadly it failed to live up to its promise.  My kitchen was a sticky shambles, I had spent a lot of time, and all I had to show for it was a high calorie dessert that I didn’t really like.

Leaving that experience behind, I found a delicious baked fruit dessert that takes less time, less effort and fewer ingredients.  The original recipe (from a British cookbook called Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook, by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow) calls for apricots, sugar, cream cheese and gingersnaps.  It’s easy enough.  And yet, I wanted to make it “less”.  Apricots were not handy, so I went for peaches.  Cream cheese is fattening so I went for the 1/3 less fat variety.  I also cut the sugar in half, and I didn’t use the special superfine sugar called for in the book, just some regular grainy sugar from Costco.

I loved the flavor contrast, but it must be eaten fresh from the oven or it separates, leaving the ginger crumb topping a soggy mess.

So, outside of party planning, I will opt for reducing it to cut fresh peaches with crumbled gingersnaps, straight to the plate.  Less time, and a cleaner kitchen will result.  No cooking, no mixing, no fat…  Okay, maybe a small scoop from a tub of whipped cream cheese if I feel decadent.