Sunday, March 28, 2010

Counting my blessings

It’s been kind of rough around here lately in the mechanical category. It all started about a month ago when our cutting edge (6 years ago), should last us a lifetime, HDTV blew its “on/off” switch which we found out, more or less totaled it. Since my husband loves this sort of stuff, we shopped every Costco, Best Buy and Walmart in the Denver metropolitan area until we found the giant 46” TV that now graces our family room. Then my dryer stopped heating. It got lukewarm and still tumbled, but if you wanted clean towels, you had to plan a couple of days ahead and leave them in there long enough to let the dryer beat the moisture out of them. Since my husband doesn’t like shopping for dryers, we set about repairing it instead of replacing it with a new one. Thank goodness he is a real handyman and it only took two different part shipments from goodness knows where and one month, but he got it fixed in the end. Shortly afterwards, our desktop computer “blew up” according to our son (funny, I never heard an explosion). Call me crazy, but I think that since we have two notebook computers, we really don’t need to replace it, but seeing that it means another trip to Best Buy, I will probably be overruled. Now, the final straw, we lost power several times during the big snow storm we had a few days ago, and I guess all the on and off and power surges killed my 2004 Pillsbury Bake Off, category winner, hot shot, big time GE Profile oven. At first I thought that it had defaulted to Sabbath mode but no such luck, it is graveyard dead. Good thing we are procrastinators (and hoarders) and never got around to selling the oven that came with our house. It’s not nearly as fancy, but it’s still out in our garage waiting for our return and hopefully still works. Oh sure, I know that it could be worse but, good grief, enough is enough.


Rest in peace old friend

My new blogger friend Jane from Midwest to Midlands sent me a happiness award the other day and little did I know when I received it how timely it would be. I was really touched and assured that the author of this beautiful blog is just as wonderful as her photos and writing portray her to be. If you have a few minutes and would like to see the heart of England through a midwesterner's eyes, please pay her a visit at http://midwesttomidlands.blogspot.com. Anyway, she asked that I not only share the gift of her award with some of my blogger friends but also ten things that make me happy. When I started writing my list I realized how many things I have to be thankful for. So thanks Jane, for helping me to slow down and smell the roses and realize how insignificant my recent run of bad luck has been in comparison to my overall great life. So here are the top 10 things that make me happy in no particular order.

1. Sharing a great meal with my family.

2. Having a coffee with my dear friend Karen, at her kitchen table in Nottingham, while reading through the Daily Mail.

3. Walking from Papplewick to Newstead Abby with my dear friend Susan.

4. Sharing a laugh with my husband.

5. A hot bath on a cold day.

6. Seeing my children smile (corny but true).

7. Maui.

8. My dog.

9. Good health.

10. Traveling anywhere.

Well, I know that’s a pretty simple list but as long as I have them, who needs a Profile oven anyway.

As it goes I am now supposed to pass this award on to some of my fellow bloggers so they can share it with some of their friends after sharing with us 10 things that make them happy. So my chosen blogger friends are as follows:

Carole at http://cybercookscookingcorner.blogspot.com

Allie at http://findinginspirationinfood.blogspot.com

Lisa at http://jerseygirlcooks.blogspot.com

Tracy at http://rahchachow.blogspot.com

Heather at http://heatherfeather-lavenderblue.blogspot.com

Shannon at http://www.themessyapron.com

Veronica at http://www.supermarketserenade.com

Velva at http://www.tomatoesonthevine-velva.blogspot.com

Laurie at http://laurielufkin.wordpress.com

Conor at http://holdthebeef.blogspot.com (I just found out that she had this award waiting for me at her blog too, so thanks Conor!)




Since my oven is no more, and baking or broiling anything is out of the question, I thought I’d cook up something in the microwave, which I found challenging to say the least. I finally thought about this simple recipe that everyone loves and is much easier than any old cookie recipe. This is a great recipe for beginning cooks or something fun to make with younger children.



Puppy Chow

12 ounces (340g) chocolate chips (either semi-sweet or milk)
1/2 cup (125ml) smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter
8 cups rice Chex or Shreddies
1 heaping cup powdered (icing) sugar

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or double boiler if cooking on top of the stove. Microwave chocolate chips on high stirring after every 30 second interval until they are melted. Add the peanut butter and butter. Stir well until the mixture is smooth and the ingredients are combined.

Place cereal in a very large bowl and pour the chocolate mixture over the top. With a large spatula or wooden spoon, gently stir the cereal and chocolate until the cereal is coated with the chocolate.

Place 1/2 of the powdered sugar in the bottom of a paper or plastic bag. Pour 1/2 of the coated cereal into the bag, close the top and shake well to coat. Pour coated and dusted cereal onto a piece of waxed paper or cookie sheet to cool and set up. Repeat with the remaining sugar and cereal. At this point I like to place about 1/3 of the cereal at a time in a colander and shake a few times to remove the excess sugar. This step isn't necessary but I like the results.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Cook's Confession

Forgive me Emeril for I have sinned. It has been well, forever, since my last confession. My food related sins are as follows:

I have lusted after others’ original recipes and have been known at times to pass them off at dinner parties and family get-togethers as my own.

I often take Sandra Lee's name in vain and have been known to mock her and her recipes in the presence of others.

After years of abstinence, I succumbed to peer pressure and ate veal in the first class section of an airplane during an overseas flight. The film footage of those baby cows still haunts me.

I have cooked with eggs from caged chickens.

I’ve used frat boy party vodka to make my limoncello.

I have hidden vegetables in my children’s food and lied to them about it.

I secretly love processed American cheese.

I have had impure thoughts about Tyler Florence.

Wow, getting that off of my chest really feels good. Since I’ve been cooking for so long I've surely committed many more food related sins, but these are all that I remember or am willing to admit to. Since I’d like to correct my wicked ways, I’m gong to rid my refrigerator of those offending eggs by preparing one of my favorite egg recipes. The next time you find your cupboard bare, try mixing this up for supper no matter what type of eggs you have.



Egg and Bacon Mayonnaise

5 large eggs, hard boiled
4 rashers streaky bacon, fried until almost crisp and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping teaspoon very finely minced shallot
2 tablespoons (+ or -) good quality mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice hard boiled eggs into thin slices across then in half. Place egg slices, bacon, garlic powder, shallot and one tablespoon of the mayonnaise. If the mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or more of the mayonnaise until preferred texture is achieved. Chill before serving.

Serve in sandwiches or on its own.

Serves 4

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turkey trots and funnel cakes

Since I am normally complaining about the winter weather here in Colorado, I thought I’d let everyone know that we have had some pretty nice days lately. Early spring is the most unpredictable time of year here, so I try not to get too attached to the temperatures when they soar into the 50’s, but I do love them.
Don’t think I’m joking when I say that, because when it’s in the 50’s around here and it's sunny and bright, we peel off the jackets and get outside and enjoy some of the best weather anywhere. It is about this time of year, with these mild days, that I start getting homesick for Texas.

When it feels like this back home, that means it is getting on towards festival season. I love a good local festival and Texans can throw a party like no one else.

In the part of south central Texas where I grew up, there used to be some great festivals. In Yoakum, the town where I spent my teenage years, June brought with it the Tom Tom festival. Everyone looked forward to it because not only was it a time to eat great junk food and watch parades, it also brought with it people who had graduated and moved away to find their fame and fortune elsewhere, which also made it a homecoming of sorts.

Originally, this was a celebration of the harvest of the tomato crops, but this metropolis of 5,000 eventually became a leather mecca as well, so the powers that be soon decided that a new leather festival in the fair month of February would be better than any old tomato festival in the summer. As with all great (not) ideas, the demise of Tom Tom started out subtly enough. As soon as the big tin shoe box that is known as the Community Center was built, all of the festivities were moved inside stripping this festival of all its character. No more street dance, no more main street lined with vendors selling homemade crafts and food, which really meant no more soul for the festival.

Soon thereafter, one by one, people quit making their yearly pilgrimage from their new homes to their beloved festival. Not even the curiosity of who the newly crowned Miss Yoakum would be could bring people to town. The last time I made it to the Tom Tom festival we sat around on metal chairs in the air-conditioning and watched people that I didn’t recognize mill around. It made me realize that if I wanted to do that I could go to the food court at the mall.

About 17 miles up the road from Yoakum is the town of Cuero. For years, Cuero has been Yoakum’s arch rival. This rivalry stems from the fact that they pretty much kick our asses in everything. The year I graduated high school was the first time in something like 15 years that our football team beat theirs in the annual grudge match. For this reason no self-respecting graduate of Yoakum High had any interest in going to the Cuero Turkeyfest.

I understand there’s a pretty famous turkey race where the town’s defending champion, Ruby Begonia, takes on Paycheck, another challenger from Minnesota (go figure) in a sprint down their main street. I believe that most of the festivities are then moved to the city park, which is still better than inside a tin shoe box. I heard that Food Network was there a couple of years ago filming some of the cook-offs; looks to me like they win again, because I’ve never heard anything about them visiting the Yoakum Community Center during Tom Tom.

Eighteen miles from Cuero is Victoria. Victoria has always been the jewel in the crown of this part of the country. They used to host the best of the best of gatherings, the Armadillo Festival. Back in the mid 70’s their town square consisted of rows of picturesque 19th century storefronts which housed law offices, a boutique or two and one head shop, which was incredibly progressive for a town of 40,000 people.

For one glorious weekend a year, this town square, complete with the bandstand and head shop, would turn into party heaven with a tight schedule of happenings, armadillo style. I have very fond memories of sitting on the stage of a small club listening to Willie Nelson bring down the house. Never mind that I was waaaaaay underage, this was a simpler time and everyone was in the party mood. Shortly after this memorable festival, someone from Yoakum moved over, tore down the 19th century buildings in the square and moved this pesky festival into, you got it, the community center. I haven’t been since.

I guess there still must be street festivals in Texas but I’ll be darned if I know where they are. I know that it’s hot. So what?! I know that it’s humid. So what?! Drink enough beer and everything will be alright. One of these days, when I become queen of the world, I’m going to mandate that all festivals be moved out into the street where they belong. Until then I’m just going to stay here in Colorado and boycott them (that’ll show ‘em). Besides, I have an awesome recipe for homemade funnel cakes to satisfy my junk food cravings, and now I'm sharing it with you. Personally, I think they taste best outside, sitting on a curb, just the way they were meant to be eaten.




Crispy Funnel Cakes

1 egg
2/3 cup (160ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 -1/4 cups (125g) plain flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Icing sugar for dusting

Heat 2 cups cooking oil in a medium size saucepan over medium high heat.

While the oil is heating, combine the egg, milk and vanilla extract in a small bowl; whisk well.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; stir well.

While whisking, pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and continue whisking until mixture is smooth; transfer to a container with a spout.

Test oil for proper temperature by dropping a spot of the batter into the oil. If it sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is ready.

Holding a funnel in one hand and the batter in the other, pour 1/4 of the batter at a time into the hot oil starting with the middle and working outwards in a cobweb pattern. Fry the funnel cake for approximately 2-3 minutes before carefully turning over and frying for an additional 2 minutes or until cake is golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Dust with icing sugar while still hot. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 funnel cakes.