Saturday, November 30, 2019

Teeth.

I grew up in a tooth-oriented family. My father was a dental technician--he made false teeth (in fact, he had one of the oldest dental labs outside of Chicago). My siblings grew up with great, healthy white pearls. I did not. Mine were never "white" and, as a child, I had severe, deep cavities that haunt me today as the outer remnant of each affected tooth breaks off and falls away as I age. Ironically, those deep fillings remain.

Needless to say, I have severe dental phobia. As a young adult, I once had a terrific dentist who understood. She was understandably shocked at my behavior once I had to sit in that chair, even after I had warned her.

On my first visit, my body was so taught and rigid that she and her assistant kept pushing my outstretched legs down to force me to relax. My eyes squeezed shut. My fists clenched. My heart pounded. When I left the chair, it was sopping wet as was my shirt. She told me she had never seen anything like it.

On subsequent visits, I was quietly ushered into a quiet room all by myself.  Gas was affixed to my nose and I sat there for a good 30 minutes until I was totally and fully relaxed. When procedures began, they slipped wads of Kleenex into my hands so I had something to grip and something to keep my hands dry. Once, I almost fell asleep. 

My childhood diet was no different than that of my brother and sisters, yet my mother always singled me out and my horrible teeth. My entire childhood she threatened to brush my teeth with cleanser. One day, I finally gave in. Comet with bleach was the cleanser of choice. Needless to say, it burned like hell--not to mention what it must have done to my tooth enamel. She was not happy. Go figure.

Unfortunately, it did not whiten my teeth.

People do not realize, but teeth are hereditary. It is rare someone is actually born with white teeth. My father had "color wheels" of tooth colors--like paint chips. 

I love this video. This obviously intelligent woman is angelically soft-spoken. She is creative. Her grammar and diction is spot on.

When I see videos like this, I yearn to be a teacher again. I would certainly show it to my students.--from middle school to high school. And I have no doubt it would spark conversations from all them about toothless relatives who are, quite simply, like this beautiful woman, most likely, loved to death.











Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Lime and Pear Jello Mold

Happy Thanksgiving. (Think about cooking in this "kitchen"!)

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, America's most iconoclastic celebration and holiday. Even now as the ripe age of 70 looms just ahead of me (2022), I still remember, with excitement, creative grade-school projects redolent with construction-paper, scissors, crayons and Elmer's Glue as we re-created Pilgrims and Indians. Hats. Feathers. Turkeys. Pumpkins. Corn. Dried leaves. Acorns. Old wooden desks on old wooden floors. In beautifully constructed red-brick buildings.

Oh, the nervous eagerness of sitting on the bus with one's Thanksgiving creation to show one's mother! A work of art! ART! And then visiting relatives!!!

History.

As a child, I was obsessed with anything  Native American. I read every book I could lay my hands on in my meager, small-town library.

Of course, much was idealized. Truth be told, what saved those scrawny, ill-and-silly prepared Pilgrims from starving to death back then was not a turkey or pumpkin pie (sorry, no sugar back then for pie, let alone butter, even milk). Instead, it was a dude called Squanto who spoke English who had been abducted as a slave and sent to Europe before returning. He told them what and how to to plant crops in this new world.

More importantly, Squanto taught them how to catch eels.

Yes, it was eels that saved those scrawny white people from the East.

In the foodless-producing "R" months that extended well into spring, eels hibernated in mud banks of rivers and creeks. It was Squanto who taught them how easy it was to catch them. No gun. No arrow. No knife. Hands and bare feet were all one needed.

Eels were abundant. I mean really abundant. And, they were easy to dry and to smoke for future months when provisions dissipated and there was nothing else to eat. The protein bars of their time, they also lent themselves to simple stews and soups.

Yes, eels should be a part of every Thanksgiving celebration. Along with shell fish. Oysters and clams were also abundant on the seashore. Even children could "hunt" for them. The coveted "meat" at that first Thanksgiving was venison, not turkey. And water fowl, duck and geese.

But, I digress.

Every family has a favorite Thanksgiving recipe, which includes stuffing (more on that in a later post). For me and my family, this "green jello" recipe is a staple. I have no idea when it first appeared. But, for every Thanksgiving thereafter, it was required. Period. It became a part of our history and family memory.







I have no doubt, whatsoever, it's popularity was dependent on the culinary technology of its time: Tupperware!

Tupperware, named after Earl Tupper, was all the rage in the 60's. Stay-at-home housewives could, like Avon representatives, have a kind-of career that was not-so-much outside the home-- but inside--with an entire captive and burgeoning suburb culture as neighborhood customers.

Tupperware was plastic. It was cheap. It was stylish. More importantly, for mom of baby boomers, it did not BREAK! When my mother died and we emptied her kitchen, I was still kind of shocked to see how much tupperware she had saved. And that included the all-important "jello mold" (below) whose sacred use was used only for this recipe.


I still see people using the Tupperware measuring cup below.  My mother's was so old, one could barely read the red measurements that had been worn away since the 1970's. Once it was white. Most, have now yellowed with age. I now wish I had salvaged it if only for it nostalgia, certainly not its utilitarian advantage.


So, the other day, (and the real reason I am writing this blog) is becauseI read an article that tried to argue Thanksgiving was bad and left a negative carbon footprint:


Whatever. Like I said, I'm pushing 70. My time on this planet is limited. If young people want to "de-colonize Thanksgiving, so be it. It is their future, not mine. But, for as long as I am alive, this Pilgrim is celebrating, without any apologies, and that includes time-honored recipes from my family history.

I cherish the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims uniting under the necessity of food. A feast that blended friend and foe. Mr. Tupper came to the aid of many a suburban housewife. Yes, my education was Norman Rockwell-ish. I loved it. I make no apologies for it. It was what it was.

Be Happy For What You Have, When You Had It, and When You Learned It.
As the American poet Anne Sexton said, "The joy that isn't shared dies young."'
Share Your Joy.

This recipe is also known as "Sea Foam Salad." Cool Whip is a "modern" addition. It was not available "back then." We always used real whipped cream. Mash the pears to a consistency you prefer. With the advent of "stick blenders" this is now an easy step. It is important to have the cream cheese at room temperature. If not, nuke at 10-second intervals until softened.

  • 1, 29-ounce can halved pears in heavy syrup, or 2, 15-oz cans, drained, syrup reserved
  • 1, 6-ounce package lime jello
  • 1, 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream or 2-3 cups Cool Whip.


Drain the liquid from the pears into a small saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in Jello powder until dissolved.

Add cream cheese and pears to Jello mixture.  Use a hand-held mixer, immersion blender or food processor to blend the mixture. You are not looking for "smooth" as in baby food. I like to keep some texture of the pears. If using an immersion blender, be careful--it easily adds a zillion tiny bubbles that will result in a "spongey" gelatin, so use a spoon or knife dragged through the mixture to deflate the bubbles.

Meanwhile, if using whipped cream, beat until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream or Cool Whip into the Jello mixture until combined. Spray your Jello mold with a bit of Pam or dab with vegetable oil. Pour Jello mixture into the mold.

Cover and refrigerate.

When ready to unmold, dip the mold in warm water for a few seconds to loosen the sides. Invert onto a platter. Hold your breath and pray it easily slides out.


Interested in making an eel stew: check out the video below:






















Saturday, October 26, 2019

Super Easy Apple Crisp



My local grocery store stocks LUCK brand "fried" apples and peaches. These are not to be confused with "pie filling." Instead, these are still a bit on the "crunch" side and canned in a simple syrup. I use a drained can of each to make this simple cobbler. They are also available with cinnamon.



I love apple cobbler. It's like apple pie but without the labor of making a crust. But, even peeling apples can be time consuming. Instead, I simply butter a dish or pan, drain some of these delicious apples and peaches and top with a store-bought packet of "crumb" mixture. What could be easier?

Most grocery stores now offer a premixed brand of "crisp" or "crumble" to add to fruit. I use this one made by the Fresh Gourmet Company. It even has oats!





  • 2 cans, LUCK'S fried apples and/or peaches
  • (I use one can of apples and one of peaches)
  • 1 tablespoon flour or corn starch
  • Fresh lemon
  • 1/16 teaspoon almond or vanilla flavoring (optional and use less, not more)
  • 1 packet fruit "crumb" topping
  • Lemon


Drain the apples and/or peaches
Arrange in a buttered dish or pan.* Sprinkle with flour/corn starch. Sprinkle with a bit of seasoning of your choice such as nutmeg, apple pie spice, cinnamon. Squeeze in a bit of fresh lemon juice and, if using, almond flavoring. Gently mix.

Prepare cobbler mix according to package directions. Spread on top. Bake according to package directions. Allow to cool a bit. Enjoy

*Use a pan or dish so that the fruit is about two-layers.


Of course, it's cheaper to make your own apple crisp. My full "from scratch" recipe is here:

http://www.kitchenbounty.com/search?q=apple+crisp







Friday, October 25, 2019

I Have Not Left!

As I type this, I have a wonderful "apple-and-peach" crisp bubbling in the oven. It smells like autumn. No big deal as recipes go. BUT this recipe is different. Why? It uses canned, not fresh, "fried" apples and peaches (not to be confused with the thick snotty canned fruit filling). It also utilizes a store-bought package of cinnamon-nutmeg crumb topping. Just add butter! Seriously, this is too easy and delicious not to make.

When that incredible cobbler comes out of the oven ... in goes a one-pound fillet of marinated fresh salmon.

I love salmon, but I get so tired of boring recipes. Or just kind of serving it plain. Don't you?

This recipe is anything but!

I've been working on it for two weeks and I am now confident of the measured ingredients and how each plays off each other to create a unique but delicious salmon filet.  Think Thai sweet chili, lime, ginger, honey. A bit of fresh garlic. Served with simple, buttered, white rice and a green side such as spinach, kale, broccoli or Brussel sprouts, I am confident it will be your new go-to salmon dinner.

So, let's get ready for winter recipes! Are you in?







Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Let's Go Shopping! Part 1


Do you know what this is? I think you need it in your kitchen!


I've reached that point in my "kitchen life" when tools and gadgets have served their purpose. They, like my "biological life" are just worn out, tired, chipped and broken. Some were given to me as gifts by my mother. Sorry, mom, time to go on .... Some by family members past ....

So, about a year or two ago, I began to throw out the old to replace with the new (wish I could do that with my corporeal life).  I relied mainly on recommendations from America's Test Kitchen (ATK) and Amazon's great sales since I am a Prime member. If you know a cook, these make for great gifts. Some are expensive. Most are not. I did not pay full price for any of them. Nor am I a paid Amazon sponsor of these products (but I should be!).



This really began with my old-but-faithful crock-pot. And I mean old! It was an original Rival with a stoneware inset. The lid was chipped (but I always save lids; you should, too!) The rim of the insert was chipped. The controls were not the best. There were only two. HIGH or LOW (sorry, I'm not a druggie). The glaze on the interior of the crock was crackled and gross.  It was inconveniently cylindrical, not oval, so I could not configure certain cuts of beef, pork or chicken. I had it since the late 1970s when I was a teacher. It served its purpose admirably well. Back then, it was like a miracle. I could put in food. Set it. And come home from school or night classes to an incredible meal! Back in the day, that really was unheard of.


After some research, I finally settled on the Kitchen Aid 6-quart slow cooker because of its accurate temperature control and it's clean, sleek oval design. And it's easy to clean. True to ATK review, technologically and electronically, it's settings are true. A simmer is a simmer. And it has a warm cycle.




Unfortunately, this came along about the same time and has pretty well replaced my crockpot for the current generation. Good for them!



I have now had my Instant Pot since 2016. It's almost time to get a new one because I have used it so often. If you purchase one, be sure to buy the plastic lid to pop on to easily store leftovers in the fridge and the clear cover with handle for when you just want to simmer or keep items warm. I still like my crock pot for whole chickens and slow roasts. But for convenience and flavor, nothing beats the convenience of a pressure cooker. Don't be scared. It will not explode. It is computer-safe. Yes, you really need to buy one.




For a guy, a toaster is kind of like his favorite pair of boxers and t-shirt. Why get rid of either? When the handle of my decades-old toaster came off, I didn't really care. I improvised with a wine-bottle cork for a while; but, then, even that fell off. There was a metal thing I could still use to pop it down and up. But then I just became tired of looking at it and constantly cleaning its mirrored aluminum surface.

My heart was set on an English Dualit toaster which I discovered years ago at the home of great client/friends (Hi Bob and Lisa Sessa!) but I could not justify the over 200-dollar price for toast (but they're just so cool!).

Instead, I took ATK's advice and got a DASH Clearview Toaster. It's cool, too. And very affordable.


The shape is not traditional, but it's narrow footprint snugs alongside a kitchen counter wall.  The slot is so wide, I can fit in hamburger buns! The side of toast facing the glass does not darken as much. Still, I just kind of like it quirkiness.


While I did not buy a Dualit toaster, I did buy a Dualit electric hand-held mixer. ATK's advice was for a Kitchen Aid ... but I had had something similar for years. I'm not a great fan of the diminutive wire whisk-like beaters that now come with so many electric mixers. I wanted muscle! These beaters are extra long and wide, so you can dig deep into the bottom of the bowl of what you are mixing and the batter won't creep up the stem ends. Plus, the cord is retractable and it winds inside to keep things tidy, such as your cabinets.

While I have not yet used this, I know I won't be disappointed. ATK did not review this particular mixer (why?). However, I've seen it used by several cooks I follow on YouTube. Bottom line? I'm vain. I just like the looks of it. It is obviously handsome. It is muscular without showing off. I saved almost forty bucks with an Amazon deal. My second choice would have been a Breville. I love all things Breville! You should, too!





While I am glad I have a new electric mixer, my arthritic hands and shoulders sometimes just get tired of holding it. Like most home cooks, I have always coveted a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. It is the poster child of mixers on any cooking channel. I wonder why? Hmmmmmm ..... Seriously?

ATK always chooses this as their top choice. But, define choice. I spent almost one year researching and trying to figure this out.

My first stand mixer was actually an old Sunbeam from my parent's basement. My mom just never ever used it. When I moved out and began cooking, I grabbed it! I just loved it for whipping up cakes and anything with a "batter." I have no doubt she got this from her mother, my grandmother. Maybe even older, my great grandmother. In its day, it was the Cadillac of mixers. The tines of the mixer had obviously been re-soldered. Interesting. That told me someone used it frequently. And who did the work? Most likely, one of my great uncles whom I never knew.


I read many reports of Kitchen Aid mixers with gears that failed. Many from cooks I watched on YouTube. Also, it's very very heavy.

I kind of settled on this choice, a Cheftronic. I almost bought it. It has way more power than a Kitchen Aid at half the price.





Then I found a channel on YouTube where a woman, Amy, tests appliances for you. I like Amy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fx_EbDfy0U

She gave this Bosch Mixer an "A." It's awesome. The beater moves in a  'planetary' movement. In other words, it whisks up, down and along the sides of the bowl which is very cool instead of being stationary and just going around and around like a merry go round.  And it is lightweight. It will also mix a loaf of bread.







In my old age, I no longer really drink coffee anymore. Not sure why. I prefer tea. In fact, even mundane places like McDonald's serve up decent hot tea (although most taking your order have no idea where that button is!). So, I bought an electric kettle and I absolutely love it! It heats faster than a microwave. The interior is metal, no PBA plastic. It stays cool to the touch. The heating element remains behind when you pick it up, so there is no cord to get in the way. It will boil 1.5 liters of water is like 5-8 minutes! I only use a few cups and I am always shocked at how fast it boils. (As an aside--waves from a micro wave change the molecular structure of water so that the body does understand it is water. As such, the body sucks needed water from your bones instead which can lead to serious rheumatoid arthritis.) This unit shuts off automatically when it comes to a boil. Also great for oatmeal, hot chocolate, Jell-o, clean out your drains.








Before I purchased the electric kettle, I puchased a regular, stove-sitting kettle. It's a beauty and it's built like a tank! Previously, I owned a small tin enamel kettle whose shape and color I loved. But, I wanted something bigger and sturdier, so I puchased this beautiful OXO tea kettle:

I love all things OXO. They are beautifully engineered with the convenience of the cook in mind and, often, like this kettle, their products border on art. The lid is large enough so your hand can fit into it to clean it. It has a great whistle. The silicone handle and knob stay cool to the touch.


Speaking of OXO, I bought this flat whisk which is so convenient for mixing sauces and gravies. It wonderfully gets to the bottom of the pan without splatters! I purchased it for almost half price. Totally worth it! If your hand is wet, it will not slip on the silicone handle. Metal handles are slippery. Wooden handles get moldy. Easy to clean.





Do you have a potato masher? I never owned one. My mom never owned one. I just used a wire whisk and a fork. Sticky and clumpy. I debated to buy a "ricer." Then I saw this beautiful baby! Oh, yea! Do yourself a favor and buy one. Buy a few for gifts. It is very very sturdy. Ergonomically, it is  perfect. It has a rubber scraper on the side so you can scrape the side of the bowl or pan.  Mash apples for apple sauce. Mash bananas for banana bread. Mash beans for Mexican dishes. It's a beauty. If you have stiff arthritic hands, this is for you.









Mash or squeeze? I love spaetzle. I spent forever seeking a good spaetzle maker. I finally decided on this beauty. It is not cheap, but I did get a good buy on Amazon. Also, I had incredible customer service from Germany. The English was not the best, but I was impressed they contacted me personally. You can also use this for potatoes, apples, etc. It is built like a tank and will last for generations. Easy to clean. When it arrived, it was wrapped in German newspapers. Totally authentic. Unlike cheaper ones, your hands won't be scaled from boiling water. It has several guages for different pot sizes. Danke!







Mixing a stiff dough? Don't want to get out your mixer which most likely can not hand the job? You know the wooden spoon is a joke and may just break. Spatula and whisks are useless. Guess what? Got you covered. Use this inventive little beauty from Scandinavia. I mean, just look at it! Simple, ergonomic technology. Think chocolate chip cookies ....  Thick batter-breads. Need I say more? If anything, buy it for it's beauty.






Part II. Knives and cookbooks.

If you enjoyed this post, please send the link to others. Happy cooking.



Wednesday, June 19, 2019

And Now for Something Completely Different ...



A simple recipe for life--only three ingredients!


I really enjoyed this little video. I think, in many of our quiet, personal, small ways, we all unconsciously practice the mantra of this "trinity" outlined in the video below.

This so reminded me of Emily Dickinson who was way before her time. Poem below. In age of "globalism," I welcome her thought and New "Englandism."
























Here's the original!




This man, Stefan Verstappen, and his books, interviews, and lectures, are brilliant. Sadly, he is very censored by YouTube. More pathetic, I doubt he would be welcomed on today'sl University campuses.




Enjoy your day. Share if you got something out of this post!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Italian Sausage with Onions and Peppers in the Instant Pot



Pressure cooking simple ingredients such as this ensures the sausages are infused or pressured with flavors one could not get from a traditional long simmer on the stove top. And the sausages remain juicy.

Cut the peppers and onions into wider widths than usual since pressure cooking "shrinks" veggies.

Serve on a hoagie or over rice. The veggie/sauce mixture by itself is wonderful piled on a nice thick slice of artisan bread.

  • 1 pound Italian sausages (I use Johnsonville brand"mild")*
  • 8 ounces sliced onion
  • 8 ounces sliced peppers (I used green and red)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, juice and all
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 7 ounces (1/2 can) water or stock of your choice
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • A few shakes Ancho chili powder or Cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar

Put a bit of olive oil in the instant pot. Switch on saute mode and lightly brown the sausages. Do not cook through. Remove to a plate. Add peppers and onions. Saute just until they begin to lose their crispness. Add tomatoes and garlic. Mix tomato paste with water in the can. Add to pepper/onion mixture. Add seasonings.

Return sausages to the pot. Turn off saute mode.

Set manual mode for five minutes. When done, do a quick release.

No instant pot? No problem:

Lightly brown sausages in a 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven. Remove. Add pepper and onion mixture and stir until they lose their crispness. Add tomatoes and garlic. Mix tomato paste with water in the can. Add to pepper/onion mixture. Add seasonings. Cover and simmer for at least one hour. Add more water if needed.

*I suggest mild or hot sausages. I have used "sweet" but the dish lacks in flavor.




Thursday, March 21, 2019

Easy Chicken Alfredo Casserole



Move over, Olive Garden! Oh, yea, this is that good! Not difficult to prepare and the result is spectacularly delicious.

I used a grocery-store rotisserie chicken that was on sale. The pasta was on sale. The cheese was on sale! The Alfredo sauce was on sale! This makes quite a bit and it's filling. Perfect for a family. In fact, I would not hesitate to serve this to guests. A nice green salad with fresh tomatoes, an artisan loaf of bread, a chilled bottle of Rose or a nice Zinfandel and this is a meal guests will brag about for days afterward. Have printed recipes available.

I have made this with spaghetti and mini penne. I prefer the spaghetti. Had I fresh basil, I would have swapped it for the parsley. This is a great "make-ahead recipe." For this recipe, I used three 5 x 5 baking dishes, otherwise use an 11 x 7 pan or dish or something comparable.

I saved the crispy chicken skin and cut it up fine to add to the chicken. The skin has lots of flavors!

  • 8 ounces pasta, (spaghetti or penne or what you have on hand)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup jarred Alfredo sauce (I use mushroom Alfredo sauce) divided
  • 4 ounces sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 to 1.5 cups cubed rotisserie chicken
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Parsley for garnish

Cook the pasta less one or two minutes before done. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add a bit of butter so it doesn't stick. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix the chicken with one cup Alfredo sauce and sour cream. Add pepper to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, and Parmesan. Mix thoroughly. Add to the pasta. Now add the Chicken mixture. 

Place mixture in pan or dish. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce. Top with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. If the top is not brown, broil for about two minutes. This is best served hot. Enjoy!