Sunday, December 20, 2015

Festive Ice and Pickled Gifts for the Holidays
By Marilyn Michael

Christmas lights, doesn’t every family have a story? My folks turned our house into Disneyland, I swear, vying for that silver bowl top prize in the town decorating contest. The pinnacle was the year Santa kept pulling Rudolph up the side of the house with a pulley…don’t ask. I remember being pretty embarrassed as a teenager having the whole town drive by our house. Looking back, though, I’m proud of my parent’s enthusiasm and willingness to brighten people’s lives at the holidays.

We’ve lived on a boat for years in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle. My husband, Hank, wrote a humor/food column for a couple magazines. Below is his take on Christmas decorating followed by a couple of tasty ideas for holiday entertaining and gift giving that he offered his readers one year.

One of my most embarrassing memories from childhood was having kids over to play and trying to explain why our Christmas lights were still up on July 4th. Putting lights on the boat is a real hassle, with the twist ties, tape, tangled bulbs, extension cords and all. Last January 10th I was standing on the dock looking at those colored strings circling my boat wondering if I could pass them off as running lights.

Every year I swear this is the year of no lights but I’m compelled by an unknown force to put more and more lights up. My wife, who’s always right by the way, reminds me that I’m going to have problems with so many. Well, the big moment came and when I threw the switch I swear the Space Needle dimmed for a glorious moment that was punctuated by a popping breaker.

Actually there is a reason why every December I’ll crawl around the deck with twist ties hanging out of my mouth like tooth picks dragging stings of lights. One year a cancer patient I was seeing said to me, “Just think of all those tired people driving home from work down Interstate 5 who look down on Lake Union and see the boats all lit up, I bet it lifts their spirits”. So, up go the lights and onward with plans for having guests on board for the boat parade and other celebrations during the holiday season.

Holiday Ice


Not everyone drinks hot toddies in December. If you are serving drinks with ice, alcoholic or other, why not liven up those ice cubes. Put a twist of lemon or lime in the water before freezing. Gourmet markets sell edible flowers. Adding a flower to each cube before freezing can add an interesting and festive element to drinks you serve. You can add whatever you like, your only limitation is your imagination olives, pieces of fruit, you name it.

If you don’t want alcoholic drinks diluted by the ice cubes, add 2 parts water to 1 part alcohol to keep those drinks lively. Keep those cubes separate from ones the kids may use and party hardy but don’t drink and drive (in boat or cars.)

If you are attending a holiday gathering and want to arrive with a unique and appreciated hostess gift, food is always welcome and home made food is celebrated. I’m always a hit with jars of Pickled Shrimp and Pickled Onions.

Hank’s Pickled Shrimp

If you’re serving Bloody Marys for that New Year’s Brunch, hang a shrimp on the side of each glass.

Ingredients:
Tiger Prawn
8 cups white vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons pickling spice
Red onion
Garlic cloves
Small attractive canning jars with lids

Instructions:
Throw the shrimp (I prefer tiger prawns) in boiling heavily salted water for 10 to 15 seconds until shells turn pink. (Heavy salt brings out the shrimps flavor.)
Remove them with a slotted spoon and put cold water over them immediately to stop the cooking. (Overcooking the shrimp makes them tough.)
Peel the shrimp.
Place in a pan:
8 cups of white vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons pickling spice (I like it heaver so I use 4-6 Tablespoons)

Bring the brine to a boil then let it cool down.

Pack small, clean, attractive jars, layering each with:

Shrimp
Thin slices of red onion (some jars with and some jars without)
1 clove of raw garlic

If you like it spicy, add crushed red pepper to taste.
Cover with the brine.
Put lids tightly on the jars.
Chill overnight then gift or enjoy.

Pickled Pearl Onions

Make up some jars as above and fill with raw, peeled pearled onions
one clove of garlic, and crushed red pepper to taste.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Creamy Spinach and Feta on Coconut Rice
By Marilyn Michael


Creamy Spinach & Feta on Coconut Rice
My husband and I have definitely favored the meat and potato end of the food spectrum. It's been my hobby of Indian cuisine that has expanded my appreciation of what can be done with vegetables and rice. The recipe I'm offering involves both as primary ingredients, but instead of Indian spices this dish goes in the direction of Greek with tangy Feta cheese chunks throughout.

When we were growing up in the 1950's, rice was just "rice" always served with milk, sugar and raisins. Savory rice was an oxymoron until I was assigned Spanish rice in High School Home Ec. My mom would be amazed that currently I have a plethora of rice available including Basmati, Arborio, medium grain and Jasmine. The Arborio is for a comforting cabbage rice soup recipe from a favorite food blog, Orangette.blogspot.com. The Basmati is for the Indian dishes I enjoy making. The medium grain is for filling in if I’m short on Basmati, for rice pudding or in case we should get a hankering for that old favorite rice with milk and sugar (I never liked the raisins). The Jasmine is new. 

Wandering an upscale supermarket the other evening they were serving it at a tasting station. The promotion was coconut water and they were tempting shoppers with Coconut Rice - Jasmine rice cooked in coconut water with fresh chopped cilantro stirred into the hot rice. It was a taste epiphany, wow!  The coconut water didn't give it a coconut taste, just a subtle and delicious sweetness. I immediately grabbed up some Jasmine rice, a couple cans of coconut water and some fresh cilantro and couldn't wait to get home. We were eating it directly out of the rice cooker. 

Spinach, in our growing up years, came from a can. It was served swimming in a little butter and cider vinegar (my husband claims his mom would use sweet pickle juice sometimes). Amidst my food adventuring I'd learned to make Spanakopita. Little Greek-inspired pastries filled with spinach, onion, sour cream and Feta cheese. One holiday season I was determined to learn the art of Phyllo dough wanting to make the unusual savory treat as a gift for some neighbors and friends. I watched YouTube videos on Filo and fiddled with it until I had my desired gifts - containers filled with frozen unbaked Spanakopita to pop into the oven for fifteen minutes and enjoy at their leisure. Later, I found the Indian recipe for Saag Paneer (greens with Paneer Cheese), similar to the Spanakopita filling involving spinach, onion and yogurt fried together with the addition of the fresh Paneer cheese fried in cubes. 

Home from the supermarket on the "rice night" I had planned to make some of the Spanakopita filling and just enjoy it straight. There was my creamy spinach mixture smelling delicious with the tang of the Feta throughout, next to my coconut rice. Hmm. I plopped some of the flavorful spinach on top of some rice and, as is now said, OMG! 

As an extra treat the two elements are versatile. You can experiment with Filo, like I did, and enjoy Spanakopita. You can spoon some left overs onto the rice or top it with Tandoori Chicken or another Indian dish you can pick up at take out buffets now available at markets like Whole Foods.  The rice is so good, even eating it straight is a treat, sort of a gourmet lighter take on the rice with milk and sugar your mom might have made you as a child.

Coconut Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup Jasmine rice
2 cups coconut water, (I use a 17.6 oz. can of Whole Foods 365 brand)
Large pinch of salt

Instructions:
Simmer rice in the coconut water and salt until done or place in a rice cooker and enjoy when done. (I have a small rice cooker and the sugar in the water does cause a little toasting (not burning) of the rice on the bottom. Check your rice cooker the first time close to end of cooking. 

Creamy Spinach with Feta Cheese

Ingredients:
1 - 16 oz. bag of frozen chopped spinach thawed and pressed in a colander to drain thoroughly
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped 
6 Tablespoons sour cream
Salt to taste
3 oz of crumbled Feta cheese (more if desired)
A nice addition would be a handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
(When made for Spanakopita filling I add to the spinach and onion, 1 egg whisked with a little spinach mixture in it before adding in order to temper it.)

Instructions:
Thaw the spinach. Rough chop the onion. Fry the onion slowly on medium low heat in 2 Tablespoons oil until it softens and begins to brown. Add the spinach and stir together continuing to fry on medium low to heat. Add the sour cream and stir together until heated. Add the crumbled feta cheese and continue heating a bit but letting the Feta remain in chunks. When heated through top with pine nuts if desired.

Serve on top of the Coconut Rice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

BLOCK PARTY POTATO SALAD
By Margie Summers


A little bit of St. Charles.
Our town, St. Charles, Missouri, is big on block parties. Last evening, the block I live on hosted one. The neighbors turned out in full force, each family contributing food and drink, plus kids, dogs, and friendly conversation. A very nice time was had by all, and I am looking forward to the next one. In case you, too, have a summer party to prepare for and are searching for recipes, here is the potato salad which served as part of my contribution to the festivities. I made it up, changing my mind many times about what I wanted to put in it, so feel free to vary it any way that suits you.


BLOCK PARTY POTATO SALAD

3 lbs red-skinned potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 to 1 lb bacon, fried to a crisp and crumbled
Bacon grease, reserved
1 large bunch green onions, sliced (or 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped)
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped bread-and-butter pickles (or just use sweet relish)
3 ribs of celery, chopped
4 to 6 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
Salt, pepper, celery seed to taste, and whatever seasonings you like and have on hand*
Miracle Whip 

*I also used a little of each of these: Penzey's Fox Point and Adobo Seasoning, plus some McCormick Smoky Sea Salt and Sweet Onion Sea Salt.

Start potatoes in cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes til tender-firm. (Don't overcook if you want well-defined pieces of potato in the finished salad.) While the potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon, boil the eggs (I boil mine about 20 minutes), and chop the veggies, storing each thing in the fridge as you finish prepping it.

When the potatoes are done, let them cool and then put them in the fridge for half an hour or so to get them nice and cold. Spread them on a baking sheet so they cool evenly.

Meanwhile, whisk a tablespoon or two of bacon grease into a cup or so of Miracle Whip, along with maybe 1/4 cup of juice from the sweet pickles or the relish. Add a bit of seasoning to that if you like... celery seed, salt and pepper, whatever else you're using in the salad. Then stir in bacon, onions, celery, and pickles (or relish) and return to fridge to let flavors blend.

When potatoes are chilled, remove from fridge and cut into bite-sized cubes. Place in large bowl. Season lightly with salt, pepper, celery seed, and whatever else you like. Toss gently to distribute seasonings. Grate or chop the boiled eggs and add to potatoes. Finally, add Miracle Whip/bacon/veggie mixture and toss thoroughly until potatoes are evenly coated. Adjust seasonings if needed. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve.   

NOTE: This is great to make the evening before and store in the fridge to let the flavors really blend and strengthen.


Monday, August 31, 2015

CAJUN CABBAGE ROLLS 

BY BARBARA TOMER WINTERS

First and foremost I have to tell you I am not a big fan of cabbage.  Nor of tomatoes.  Where I grew up, in Tulsa, there was a large Lebanese community, most of whom were in the men's haberdashery trade or in the restaurant business.  They came from their father's families and did things the way their fathers did them.  There were several popular steak houses which served cabbage rolls and delicious steaks accompanied by a wedge lettuce salad, slathered in Thousand Island dressing.  None of those things were a favorite of mine, so I didn't frequent Eddy's, Freddy's or Jamil's; the better known of the family steak houses.

I have never cared for the acrid smell of cabbage, nor the flavor.  The taste of cabbage rolls cooked in lightly seasoned tomato sauce didn't appeal to me, so I left them alone.  Until now.

I came across a recipe for cabbage rolls, with the instructions for making them, and I wondered if I could do something delicious with the basics.  There were Middle Eastern style cabbage rolls with the mix of Middle Eastern spices that are unusual to us, but different and interesting.  There are Italian style cabbage rolls made with a jar of spaghetti sauce and more exceptable to American palates.  Then I saw a recipe for Cajun Cabbage Rolls.  I love cajun food.  Since moving to south Texas I have been trying some spicy Cajun and Creole dishes which are wonderful.  While I was making this mixture I kept thinking of things that would keep it simple, and what you read here is the result.  It was delicious. The cabbage was a little crunchy still, and the addition of chicken stock kept the tomato from being an overwhelming flavor.  Yes, there is a commercial add in of dirty rice mix, which already has the seasonings and rice in it.  But it just makes things easier, and more delicious.  I hope you enjoy this.

CAJUN CABBAGE ROLLS
1 head cabbage
1 lb lean ground beef
12 oz. package boudin sausage
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 package dirty rice mix (rice and seasoning), Zatarain's or other brand.
1 8 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
8 oz. chicken stock

Core the head of cabbage and steam in the microwave 10 - 15 minutes until the leaves loosen up.

Remove casing from boudin.  Mix ground beef, boudin, green onion, celery, bell pepper and dirty rice mix, using hands until well incorporated.  Pat down in the bowl into a large patty, and using a small knife divide into wedges until each is very small.

Remove cabbage leaves one at a time, slicing out the tough central core at the bottom, leaving most of the leaf intact.  Cross the split bottom, place one wedge section of meat mixture onto the leaf, and begin rolling, folding in the outside edges and ending with a secure roll at the top of the leaf.  Secure with a toothpick if necessary.

Place  cabbage rolls in a 1 1/2 - 2 qt. covered casserole creating a snug layer on the bottom, and then stacking on top.  Pour tomato sauce and diced tomatoes with juice over the top, then add chicken stock.

Cover the dish with foil and vent with a sharp knife, then cover with the lid.  Bake for 1 hour in a 350F oven.  

(Note for non-onion fans:  I don't think it would make much difference if you left it out.)


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Midsummer Harvest 

by Terri Wilson Godfrey

In mid-July the humidity has established itself in our warm summer days here in the Northeast.  Vegetables are ripening and we are picking beans, zucchini and summer squashes, cucumbers, Swiss chard, corn and early tomatoes.  Herbs are full and lush, blooming and filling the air with their marvelous scents; lavender, lemon balm, bergamot, chives, dill, rosemary, mints, fennel and all that we’ve cultivated to flavor our meals and add to our table bouquets.   


In times gone by I would place abundant baskets of organic tomatoes, cukes, squashes, herbs and bouquets of herbs and flowers at the bottom of the driveway, lined up on the railroad ties.  My Thyme in the Garden farm stand was complete with an on-your-honor payment system in a cigar box.   Tomatoes 25 cents or 5 for a $1.00.  (One year we stopped counting after picking 1000 tomatoes).  Bouquets for $5.00 complete with the glass jar.  Herbs $2.00 per bunch.  My informal vegetable stand would prompt many a traveler to stop and pick up something to serve with dinner or a fresh bouquet for the table.  


Here is one of my all-time favorite recipes to make during the harvest months.  Packed with nutrition.   Serves 4 – 5.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Garden Harvest Bake


1/4 cup cold pressed olive oil

1 medium Vidalia or sweet onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves pressed thru garlic press

3 medium zucchini or summer squash sliced into rounds

1 sweet red pepper cut into strips (2 if you’d rather)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves OR 2 Tablespoons dried basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (more if you desire)

2 large ripe garden tomatoes, thinly sliced

Fresh ground pepper

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or Italian bread crumbs


Heat oil in large skillet.  Add garlic and onion.  Cook approx. 10 minutes until tender.   Add squashes and sweet red pepper, simmering until almost tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in salt, half of the basil and parmesan cheese and all of the parsley.  Transfer mixture into a 9 x 12 baking pan and top with sliced tomatoes, remaining basil and parmesan.   Grind fresh pepper across the top.  Spread Ritz crackers (or crumbs) over top along with remaining cheese, drizzle with olive oil.   Bake 22 minutes at 400 degrees.   Let set for 10 minutes before serving. 




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A POTATO SALAD SAGA

By Marilyn Michael

Mmmm... Potato Salad!
If you grew up in America and your life experiences aren’t too far out of the ordinary, potato salad is a comfort food. Though commonly appearing in the summertime, for me, Christmas Eve comes to mind. It’s when we would open gifts and was always celebrated at my grandparent’s home. As the big holiday meal was the next day, a buffet was laid out for munching. The star of that buffet, at least in my mind, was my Grandma’s potato salad. My mouth waters as I think about it…the tang of cider vinegar the creaminess of added thick cream, mmmm. It truly celebrated the simple ingredients of potatoes, eggs and onions. 
As a young adult, I was not very inspired by cooking until a new friend offered to teach me how to prepare Indian cuisine. My Indian adventures making pulaos, curries and biryanis began to pique my interest in the broader adventure of creatively combining ingredients into something greater than the sum of their parts. In all my food-challenged years, though, I was known for my (my Grandma’s) potato salad. Its simplicity might have been the secret. There are as many potato salad recipes as there are American families. Many have odd and sundry ingredients like olives, pimentos, relish, pickles, you name it. And, have you ever had a restaurant potato salad beside a sandwich you’d ordered and wondered who in the world thought it had any taste worth serving? Now, I’m not going to pick on family food heritages, but my Grandma’s potato salad has never met a person who hasn’t found its creamy, tangy simplicity delicious. Most say so. It’s like ‘the essence of potato salad’ not cluttered with odd and sundry things for reasons of texture, or color or just automatically following the family’s oft made recipe. OK, I’m not insulting other potato salad recipes by calling them cluttered, but on a consistency scale, I bet my Grandma’s potato salad would be more universally well liked than other more “kitchen sink” versions.

I think it’s partly that the onions are chopped very fine, leaving almost an essence of onion with every bite rather than crunching down on an onion chunk every other bite or so. Also, the extra eggs, it’s a very eggy salad. You don’t have to wait for the pleasure of finding an egg chunk. And then the creaminess created by that quarter cup of unwhipped whip cream (or in my Grandma’s day, thick cream delivered by a local farmer). Its creamy texture creates a pleasing sensation in your mouth unlike some, more dry, potato salads where the potatoes are separate chunks barely blended. My only problem is that I can make the full recipe using 5 lbs. of potatoes and eat it all myself over several days.

My love of my Grandma’s potato salad has kept me uninterested for many years in ever making another version. But, the other day, I went to a potluck and, unbelievably, the desire to try a different potato salad overtook me. I munched on the proffered ‘unique to my taste buds’ version and couldn’t stop munching. How unusual and interesting it tasted. I knew it wouldn’t have the universal appeal of my Grandma’s potato salad, but it was quite the taste treat. I also knew several people, including my husband, who would really enjoy how it incorporated its unusual ingredient – wasabi (also called Japanese horseradish). Yes, that ‘take your breath away’ green paste mostly appearing in Japanese restaurants. Interestingly, it’s something you usually really love or you really don’t love. I’ve been in the camp of not loving it – but then I don’t hang out at sushi bars amidst where it’s served as an accoutrement. 
Here I was, though, savoring bite after bite of this intriguing take on potato salad. What was it? I had learned with Indian cuisine that often even stubbornly intrusive ingredients like cumin added in a blend of other spices do not assault the taste buds in the same way as when alone. Yes, I could still taste the wasabi but it blended somehow with the creaminess and other flavors and didn’t assault me as it does eaten straight. 
The long and short of this potato salad saga is that I actually made it, making a potato salad other than my Grandma’s for the first time in my life. It isn’t the comfort food staple that began on my childhood Christmas Eves but it intrigues my taste buds in a very pleasing way.

I requested the recipe from the gal who brought it and found that it’s available on the Internet. I cut it in half and left out the chives (I didn’t want to run them down) and parsley (I could never understand it but for some sundry green color). Here’s the link:

And, for a delicious, comfort food summer treat, here’s my maternal grandma’s potato salad recipe.

Ruth Allen’s Potato Salad

INGREDIENTS:
1 - 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into 2" chunks
2 teaspoons of salt (for boiling potatoes)
1 large sweet onion, chopped very fine
8 large eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
2 cups of Best Foods Mayonnaise
½ cup of cider vinegar
¼ cup of whipping cream or heavy cream (not whipped)
2 teaspoons of salt


INSTRUCTIONS:
Place eggs on to boil. When they are hardboiled, peel and place them in the refrigerator to cool. (I sometimes boil them with the potatoes.)

Bring 9 cups of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt. While heating water, peel all the potatoes and cut them for boiling. Add the potatoes to the boiling water just topping them and keep them boiling uncovered for around 15 minutes (a potato chunk should break easily in two when cut with a spoon.)

While the potatoes are boiling peel and very finely chop a large sweet onion. I have to use a food processor to get the right texture. Pulse so you don’t go too far and puree the onion.

Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool, ideally in the refrigerator.

In a very large bowl, slice the potatoes and eggs, mixing chunks together (the potatoes may be a little flaky.) Add the finely chopped onion, 2 cups of Best Foods Mayonnaise; slightly mix the mayonnaise into the ingredients. Add ¼ cup of whipping cream and continue mixing. When the potatoes and eggs are coated, add ½ cup cider vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well. It’s very creamy. It gets even better after sitting for a bit in the refrigerator.


Monday, June 1, 2015


LEMONADE :) 
By Barbara Winters

What state are affairs are we in when we go to the supermarket and willingly, without thought,

purchase powdered lemonade flavored drink mix. Sad.  Sad, sad, sad.

The weather, though awfully wet in my sector of the U.S. has turned to spring.  We're enjoying all sorts
of spring and summer food and activities.  People are so careful about their recipes for cookouts and barbecues, and yet,
they buy glorified Kool-Aid (or maybe real Kool-Aid), as a substitute for lemonade.

Anyone remember real lemonade?  You had to juice a lemon.  Or two.  And when it is just the right
combination of sweet and tart, you can't beat the refreshing taste.  It defines summer.

I had my mom's 1942 edition of the Betty Crocker Cook Book, and in it is the best ever lemonade
recipe.  I don't remember my mom ever making it, but I have made it many times.  I passed that cookbook
to my daughter, who learned to  make lemon meringue pie from its recipe.  Fortunately I remembered to write down 
how to make lemonade before it disappeared forever.

The first time my daughter made lemonade she was about eleven.  She had become interested about
what goes on in the kitchen and occasionally surprised us with the product.  (More about this in another post.)
I was busy doing some copy editing upstairs and she was in the kitchen, doing what I didn't know.
Soon she came with a glass of ice and opaquely yellow liquid.  "Mom, here!  I made lemonade!"
I was so proud of her, figuring this out on her own.  I took a deep sip of this lemon concoction and tried
to keep my composure as I had a reaction similar to having sipped chlorine bleach and the enamel on my teeth began slowly
 to dissolve.  "Honey? I finally choked out, "did you have a recipe for this?"  

"No! I figured it out!"  "How much sugar did you add?" I asked.  "Oh, a spoonful."

We learn from our mistakes, I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mrs Stewart telling us.   
She made those horribly embarrassing moments of  adolescence much better for many of us.  It's ok.  
We all do it.  Do better next time.  My daughter was  never daunted by the possibility of error.  She always 
did better next time.

When I had recovered we went downstairs and I had her take a sip herself.  "Oh," she said, wincing the lemon face
wince.  Then I pulled out Mom's cookbook and we went to work. 

Admittedly I don't make lemonade often, but when I do we slurp it up, enjoying the sweet-tart, icy cold goodness
that means summer time.  

Lemonade

5 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 quarts water

Juice the lemons and put aside.
Cut the rind into 1/2 inch slices, pour sugar over, and let sit for one hour.
Boil water; pour over sugar and lemon rinds.  
Cool for 20 minutes.
Stir to dissolve sugar.
Remove rinds, strain reserved juice into the sugar mixture.
Stir well,  put into a pitcher and chill.  Pour over ice.


Friday, February 27, 2015

HANK'S OXTAIL GOULASH
By Marilyn Michael

OXTAIL GOULASH
For several years my husband and I lived three days a week onboard our sailboat moored at the edge of Washington's San Juan Islands, ninety minutes north of our home in a suburb of Seattle. By the time we completed the drive, we had shed the stresses of our work-a-day world. The weekly time onboard took us out of any suburban rut. It stimulated our creativity, brought us closer, (one TV channel will do that.) It introduced us to a different group of people and inspired us to new adventures. 

We never took the boat out much in the fall and winter and observed a quieting, literally an emptying, of “the dockside neighborhood.” They didn't know what they were missing, we'd think, as we walked past boat after boat sitting empty throughout the colder months. One neighbor we hadn't met walked by one evening and stopped to observe my husband who was standing on the back deck in a snow storm, with martini in hand, monitoring the barbeque. "What are you doing?", he called over. "Barbequing a duck." my husband replied. "You and I are going to very good friends." the guy smiled and walked on.

My husband, passionate about cooking, reveled in his hobby. Morning breakfasts with treats like Szechuan Eggs with Black Forest Ham were amazing. We had two Grover Washington cassettes we played a lot (this was the 1980's) To this day those songs, take me back to sitting on deck with a steaming coffee cup in hand looking out over steel gray water with neighboring boats appearing out of the mist and delicious smells wafting from the galley.  

Many times he’d cook all day Saturday challenging himself by doing it all in a large, stainless steel wok on the stovetop. No, he rarely cooked stir-fry in it. He would 'roast' a leg of lamb serving it with a jalapeno jelly sauce, simmer choppinos with fresh northwest fish and shellfish, fix a melt-in-your mouth marinated chicken, cabbage and potato concoction. It was during this time he developed one of our favorite of his dishes, Oxtail Goulash. 

HANK'S OXTAIL GOULASH*

Dutch oven or electric frying pan

Ingredients

6 meaty oxtails or lamb shanks (can use beef stew meat, but you will love the richness of the oxtails or lamb.)

1 14.5 oz. can beef consomm√© 

1 14.5 oz. can beef broth 

1 to 2 cups red wine 

1 bottle of Bloody Mary Mix - split (Mr. T’s is a favored brand) 

2 cans of Great Northern beans 

1 large onion cut into 1/8’s and separated 

Vegetables of choice. (At different times we've used: turnip chunks, slices of Portobello mushrooms, winter squash chunks, fresh green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Crimini mushrooms, pea pods, baby carrots, Yukon Gold potatoes, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.)

Wide noodles for serving.

Instructions

Boil some wide noodles, coat with a little butter and set aside.

Sear meat briefly. With lid on Dutch oven or electric frying pan, boil the seared meat in the sauce (consomm√©, water, 1 cup wine, ½ bottle Bloody Mary Mix) for about 15 or 20 minutes on high. 

Add vegetables of choice and 1 can Great Northern Beans continue simmering covered on low heat until the meat comes easily off the bone and vegetables are done. Keep adding the rest of the Bloody Mary mix and more wine, if desired, as the meat and vegetables cook. 

Oxtails and lamb shanks are rich and they do have grease. Remove the meat and vegetables when done and add a tray of ice cubes to the sauce to degrease. The grease will cling to the ice cubes for easy removal. 

Add meat and vegetables back into the sauce with a second can of Great Northern Beans. Simmer for about 5 minutes. 

With oxtails, we like the meat left on the bone, but for a dinner party etc. you can remove the meat from the bones and place it back in the sauce. 

Serve over wide noodles.

* As this is a blog of interest to Foodies, I'm assuming readers are adventuresome eaters. If you haven't tried oxtails, I highly encourage you to. If they aren't readily available, ask the butcher to bring some in. We always find them fresh at a large Asian Supermarket in Seattle called Uwajimaya.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

LINDA'S SINFULLY SIMPLE TORTILLA SOUP
By Linda Vernon
~~Al Roker





There are some things I love. Soup is one of them; another is Mexican food. Both speak of my southern California childhood and the comfort foods created in my mother’s kitchen. So what could be more perfect for me than Chicken Tortilla Soup?

Of course, there are some things I don’t like. I don’t like cilantro. There, I said it. I know, I know, in some circles that’s just blasphemy. So, I’m a blaspheming foodie. Sue me. I find the flavor overpowering, and consequently often leave cilantro out of dishes that traditionally contain it. You won’t find it in here. If you like it, add it.

Being over 50, as our blog title proclaims, means I’m also an empty-nester. That means I have no earthly need for the vats of soup I once made. I also don’t care to spend half-a-day preparing soup for one (or maybe two, if I can convince my dear husband that there’s nothing in the pot that will poison him).

So here is my very quick chicken tortilla soup recipe. It refrigerates well, if you don’t eat it all the first night. Be careful with the salt. Because of the canned foods used herein, I find I don’t need any salt at all. 

This dish is prepared using items you probably have in your cabinet or freezer right now. And if you don’t, add them to that list on the back of the envelope in the side pocket in your purse. 

No, not that pocket. The one with the broken zipper.

Enjoy!

Linda’s Sinfully Simple Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 chicken breast
1 15oz can chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 4 oz can diced green chilis (not jalapenos, but Anaheim. I use Ortega brand)
1 15.5 oz can whole kernel corn with the juice
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed WELL, otherwise your soup will be grey. Like dirty sweat-sock water.
1 cup commercial salsa, medium to hot
½ fresh jalapeno, minced
½ to 1 tsp chili powder
Granulated garlic
Onion powder


Garnish with:

Tortilla Chips/strips
Avocado
Sour cream
Shredded jalapeno jack cheese

Trim fat from chicken breast. Dust chicken with granulated garlic and onion powder. Mince jalapeno. Put chicken, jalapeno, and chicken broth in large, microwave-safe bowl with lid. Cook until chicken is done (about 5 minutes, depending on your microwave), remove from microwave and shred meat with two forks. Dump all contents into medium stockpot.

Add soup, chilis, corn, and black beans. Mix well. Add salsa and chili powder. Simmer for twenty minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serve with garnishes. Even cilantro.
Just don’t expect me to eat any of it.