Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tolerance Soup

I confess, I am an information pack rat. I read constantly, peruse the internet 24/7, always on the lookout for information to horde away for the future. I subscribe to several food related Google Searches to find information for this website as well.

I recently came across two interesting articles and their comments which I would like to share with you. The first is Professing Green While Blogging Veal Recipes
it was posted on a the Supervegan Blog site and is written about Mark Bittman, who is the Food Editor and food blog writer for The New York Times, and noted cookbook author.

Now, other than owning some of his cookbooks, I know nothing about Mark Bittman, but reading the article and hearing the comments for some reason, really bothered me. The sum and substance of the article is a complaint that Bittmann, while writing vegetarian cookbooks, recently gave out a recipe for Roman Veal. Now Bittman also has other cookbooks published which are not vegetarian in nature, nor has he ever professed to be a vegetarian. So, if the man wants to write about veal, or give a veal recipe, why can't he.

The comments in response to the post were vicious:

"Well, Bittman may know the benefits of Veganism but his bread and butter definitely comes from carnivore cuisine. It's sad though, but it's all business to him.."

"Ugh, I can't stand Mark Bittman sometimes. I remember once he was on Martha Stewart Radio talking about his "vegetarian" brussels sprouts, but then admitted they are much better with bacon!"

"It makes one wonder whether Bittman, like so many others, contradicts himself just to make money."

Why can't Mark Bittman publish what he wants? He is a food writer, he is not a professed vegetarian, there are people in the world who eat veal and enjoy it ( I being one of them), and more importantly, why is his opinion less valuable than those who are on the vegetarian blog.

I would never presume to tell them to eat meat. We are only responsible for ourselves in this world. Imagine a host or hostesses nightmare when having a party today, his or her guests may include, a vegan, a carnivore, some one with a peanut allergy, someone who keeps Kosher, someone of Muslim descent, a lactose intolerant guest and a guest that is gluten free...
What do you do? What do you serve? I certainly wouldn't serve a loin of pork, maybe make some type of vegetarian casserole like an eggplant parmigiana, but how do you satisfy everyone. I would make the most sincere effort to meet the needs of my guests, but as a guest, you also have to make some concessions as well.

My feeling is, if your dietary restrictions are so restricted or restrictive, bring your own food, but come for the people and the fun, and enjoy yourself!
It should be all about the celebration, being together, and the people...

I never understood why people feel that their way is the only right way...if you want to be a vegetarian, go for it, if you like meat, that's okay too, if you are a Democrat vote the way you want to, if you a a Republican, feel free to do the same, or if you want to vote for the other party, go ahead and do that too. The last time I checked, this was a free country and we were entititled to make our own choices within reason. Why do we all feel the need to tell someone else how they should live (in case my children are reading this, this does not apply to you, lol).

Seriously, I am concerned how the anonymity of the internet has given permission for people to bash and be cruel to others. I read posts about people that make me cringe. Maybe we all need to take a step back in time and remember the adage our parents, and even some of us were brought us with, "if you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing," back into vogue.

The next person on the food chain I expected to be tarred and feather is Nick Malgieri, the author of many, many cookbooks, on baking and desserts, for having the audacity to mention the words weiner schnitzel in an article he wrote...image that, people eat weiner schnitzel!

So dear friends, in the coming year, let's try to lighten up a bit, maybe go back to some of those old fashion values, be nicer to our fellow man, stop turning President elect Obama into the Messiah, and hoping that he is successdful in making some changes in the country, but let's not expect a miracle, and if he doesn't effect the change everyone thinks his administration can accomplish, there is always the old fall back to blame George W. Bush, he takes it on the cuff for everything anyway!

Perhaps, being more tolerant would be a good New Years Resolution for all of us. With that in mind here is my recipe for today...

Here's my recipe for today:

Tolerance Soup:

5 cups of human kindness
6 cups of forgiveness
3 cups of I Love You
8 cups of I'm Sorry
3 cups of think before opening mouth and inserting food
3 cups of maybe the things I say may hurt someones feeling
(make a bouquet garni of jealousy, vindictiveness, pettiness, vanity)

Mix everything together in a pot, about simmering for 30 minutes, toss out the bouquet garni, and let the rest of the ingredients meld together. Serve a very generous and liberal seving to those around you.

May all of you have a very Happy, Healthy, 2009...may your blessings be many and your sad moments few!!!

PS: I now have a new appreciation for food stylists!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Time of Reflection

Frank and Edith Mainella

As it approaches the end of the year, I think it is a time when most of us look back on the things in our past, the people who are no longer with us, the good times we've had, the not so good times, all the things that make us who we are.

This is the time of the year for me that always reminds me of my Aunt Edith, and the New Years Eve Celebrations we always had together in Bayville, New York. When I was very young, I used to watch her making the eggnog for our family celebrations with awe. It was a canned eggnog, but she would doctor it up and it would taste delicious. As I got older, it was my job to help her with the eggnog. I was the only girl among the 6 grandchildren, and my aunt's substitute daughter. I followed her around like a puppy, and she spoiled me to death.

She was married to my mother's brother Frank, who was a surgeon, and I adored both of them. I spent every day of every summer with them on Valley Road, in Bayville on the north shore of Long Island...those were the days.

People actually liked each other, and everyone on Valley Road's doors were open to everyone else. It didn't matter whose house you were in, it was your house. There were some incredible families on that block, the Mainellas, Pacificos, Lopezs, Vulpices, Fratiannis, Anconas, Farnells,
to name a few.

On New Years Eve, we would head to the beach to watch the fireworks and then make the rounds of all the houses on the block and sample the food and the traditions. Some houses
celebrated with Black Eyed Peas, in some you had to have a bit of herring, and in our house, you had to have the egg nog on the eve, and Aunt Edith's homemade pea soup on the day.

As I got older, I found this recipe and doctored it up, Of course, somewhere in my history, I must be related to Paula Deen, as I am a "butter and cream have to make it better girl." I decided to add in the ice cream to the egg nog as well. The recipe below will make a ton of eggnog but you can easily divide it in half. Aunt Edith then decided this was the only eggnog to have, as we created it together.

It is made with raw eggs, and in all the years I have made it, no one has ever gotten sick. I always use fresh eggs bought the day before and from reputible sources. If you are afraid of using fresh eggs, don't make this recipe.

I love you all dearly, but please don't hold me responsible, if you get rotten eggs. As always when working with raw eggs in a recipe, use caution, and saying a little prayer never hurt anyone, except for Madeline Murray O'Hare, and look what happen to her!

This is the most delicious eggnog, so thick, you will have to eat it with a spoon. You can add rum, cognac, or brandy, to it if you'd like. There were always little kids around, so we didn't, but you can, and it's delicious. My son Steven won't let a year go past without making this eggnog and so I know the tradition will continue for another generation as well.

So here is my toast to my beloved Aunt Edith for the New Year - you taught me well, I have been carrying on your traditions for you...I will make your eggnog, and your pea soup, and hope I can be half the woman you were.

To all of those who were on Valley Road, although many of you are now gone, you live on in the hearts of those of us who shared in your love, generosity and kindness. Our children will never be fortunate enough to know a world like that, to have what you gave to all of us...thank you!

To the rest of you, reflect on those special people who touched your life, if they are still around, give them a call, write them a note, let them know that they mattered to you - it will mean so much to them.

Enjoy a Happy, Healthy, New get out there and go shopping for those nice fresh eggs and make up a batch of Aunt Edith's Eggnog.

Elise Feiner and Edith Mainella

12 eggs separated
1½ cups sugar
1½ quarts heavy cream
1 quart milk
Candy canes
2 pints heavy cream whipped with ¼ cup sugar and 3 teaspoons vanilla
1 (half gallon) container of eggnog or French vanilla ice cream, softened
1 bottle each of red and green maraschino cherries, drained
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 pint whiskey or cognac (optional)

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, gradually add the 1½ cups of sugar until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, fold into the egg whites. Gradually add the 1½ quarts of heavy cream, milk, and whiskey and rum if desired. Stir until well mixed. Whip the remaining heavy cream with the ¼ cup sugar and vanilla until it becomes a thick whipped cream, being careful not to over beat (or you'll have butter.). Add to the eggnog mix by large spoonfuls. Soften the ice cream slightly and add by large spoonfuls to the eggnog mix. Add the red and green cherries. Grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Decorate the punch bowl with candy canes, and place one in each cup to serve. This is so thick you probably need to use a spoon to eat it. It probably has 1000 calories a cup, not for the squeamish! Buy the eggs the day before so they will be super fresh. Some people are skeptical about raw eggs but I have made this for years with no problem. Serves 18 to 24.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is it leftovers or is it recycling???

I am not proud to admit it, but, even though I recycle in my kitchen, I am a tremendous user of paper dishes, paper towels, and paper cups when I prep for my recipes (remember Lazy Girl Cooks), so I'll try to think of using my leftovers as another form of recycling.

If you have been reading my blog, you now know that while my children will eat leftovers, my husband is not big on them.  Personally, I like some things leftover; any type of pasta (although I am still a macaroni girl myself... (the term pasta - it's so she-she, frou-frou) cold pizza for breakfast, leftover soup anytime, but I can't say I love too many meats leftover.  My friend Fran tells me it's because I need to create them into something new.  My Aunt Edith used to do that with a leftover roast beef that was to die for, I never quite mastered the art.

Last month, when my friend Anne gave me the recipe for the Mexican Shredded Pork, she sent along with that recipe, a recipe for Cuban Pie, that would help use up the leftover pork.  When I read the recipe for the Cuban Pie, I said to myself, I'm not to sure about the Mexican Shredded Pork, but the Cuban Pie sounds outstanding.  I figured that in order to get to the Cuban Pie, I would have to make the Shredded pork, which I did.  As you can tell from the earlier postings, it was delicious.  I did have a ton of pork leftover, and even after sending the boys home with some of the pork, there was plenty left to get to the Cuban Pie, which was my ulterior motive in for making the pork in the first place. 

The Cuban Pie was so delicious, in spite of a few little mistakes that I made, it was so tasty, that even after I put it in the refrigerator for the night, I was forced by the "leftover fairy" to go and have just one last taste before bed!

Here's is Anne's Recipe as she sent it and I will tell you where I made my mistakes - and yes, even perfect people like myself, on occasion, do make mistakes, lol.  I'd like to use the excuse that I didn't read through the recipe ahead of time, but, I did, so I will just blame it on middle age senility!

Anne's Cuban Pie
Anne Murch-Gutierrez

2 Deep-Dish frozen Pie Shells
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Olive Oil
1 medium onion, peeled and slices
1 green pepper, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, cut up (I couln't find fresh here, so I used jarred and it was fine)
1/2 pound deli-sliced ham (I used Boar's Head Baby Ham and it was delicious, I may try a Sahlens Ham off the bone the next time for a little more flavor)
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese 
3 tablespoons mustard
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Heavy Cream (Anne didn't specify and I put too much) it should be about 1/4 cup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Pre-bake one pie shell for about 5 minutes.  I completely missed this step.  Sauté all the vegetables in olive oil - until translucent.  In the baked pie shell
start layering - 1/2 of the swiss cheese on the bottom, 1/2 of pulled pork, 1/2 sautéed vegetables, 1/2 whole grain mustard, and 1/2 sliced ham, that finishes one layer.

Now, beginning with Swiss cheese, begin layering the rest of the ingredients in the same order.
Finish with shredded parmesan cheese, and pour heavy cream until below the pie crust rim.

Add the second uncooked pie crust - topping the pie.  Bake 375 degrees until top crust is golden brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Ingredients you will need for the Cuban Pie:

My mistakes were the following: 

I had some piecrust in the refrigerator that I needed to use, so I used that instead of the ready made pie crusts, therefore I had to shape them, and missed the step to pre-bake the first crust. I think it came out just fine that way as well, so, if all you have are the ready made pie crust that are not pre-shaped, they worked just fine for me.

I had swiss cheese slices left over from the holidays, so instead of shredded swiss, I cut it in thin strips, which accomplished the same thing as shredding it.

In Anne's original recipe, she didn't specify how much cream.  When I filled my pie to the rim, it took almost a cup.  After speaking to her, she said she used about 1/4 cup.  My pie came out a little liquidy because of this step.  I told Anne that if I did this again, I would add 1 egg to the recipe, mix it with the cream, the mustard, and the parmesan cheese, and pour half of the cream mixture over each pork/swiss cheese layer before adding the ham.  I have enough pork left over to make one more pie, and I am going to try that with the next pie (just to satisfy my curiosity.)

Anyway, here is the step by step - mistakes and all (however, there was no mistake in the taste, that pie was scrumptious!!!)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel and crush the garlic and set it aside

Peel and slice the onion in half

cut it into thin strips 

and set it aside

Wash the pepper and tomato

Cut the pepper in half and remove all the seeds and membranes

Cut the pepper into thin strips

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2-in slices 

then stack them on top of one another and cut into strips

turn a half turn and dice into cubes

Slice the Jalapeno's

If you have shredded swiss cheese, eliminate this step
If you have a bar of Swiss, grate it, if you have slices of
Swiss cheese, cut them into small strips

Set everything aside, 
 in a few minutes you will begin 
to assemble the pie

If you are using the pre-shaped pie crust 
as the recipe states, bake it now. 
If you need to shape the crust yourself, 
spray a 10-inch pie plate with PAM

Unroll one of the pie crust and place it in the pie plate

Note: These crusts are designed for a 9-inch pie plate, so you may have to 
press them a little - this was the other reason I didn't
pre-bake the first crust, I needed to press the top crust
onto this one to make a nice pie

In a large frying pan, add a few squirts of Olive oil, 
turn the heat on to medium

and sauté the vegetables until they are translucent

when the vegetables are done, remove from the heat
and get ready to start layering the pie

Place 1/2 of  the swiss cheese at the bottom

place 1/2  the pork on top of the cheese

add 1/2 of the sauteed vegetables

and then add half of the mustard

top with half of the ham slices

Now begin all over again, starting with the Swiss cheese
When you get to the ham, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese

Add your heavy cream to come to the level of the rim of the pie crust

I actually used a fork to help the cream spread throughout the pie

top with the second pie crust

Crimp the top and bottom crusts together and kind of make them rounded

Then, push the crust between your thumb and index finger
to make a v-shape and push in

Continue doing this around the whole crust
this does not have to look absolutely perfect as you
are not a machine and this is homemade :)

I also took one egg yolk, 

and about 1 tablespoon of heavy cream

and beat them together to make an egg wash
(this was not in the recipe, I  just wanted a golden crust)

Brush the egg wash on the top crust if using an egg wash

Make sure you hit all the nooks and crannies

Place the pie in the oven,  I left an oven protector
under it as I had a feeling it might spill over
because it was so full - it didn't, but better to be
safe than sorry - or worse yet - have to clean your oven!

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown - I had
to bake mine for almost 30 minutes to get the desired color
again, I remind you - not all ovens temperatures are
created equal
Savor the aroma while it's baking!

Remove from the oven and let it 
set for a few minutes,

 and enjoy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Change or Not to Change... that is the Question?

I been thinking that perhaps I should change the name of the blog from Foodfanataholics to The Lazy Woman Cooks! 

It is so quiet here now that everyone has gone home.  My husband is living in fear that since his sons have left, I will not be cooking again!  He doesn't understand that when you are used to cooking for 10 all the time, it's tough and boring to cook for two.  It's not that I don't love him, or love to cook, but how excited can you get about making lasagna for two... especially when the man you are married to hates leftovers (since my kids went to college and left to live on their own, they at least appreciate the leftovers), doesn't think that pasta qualifies as a meal (I married the only Jewish man in America who doesn't think pasta is a main course), and lives with a woman who has had gastric by-pass surgery.

So now, my dilemma, it will be difficult to put a recipe up everyday, since I don't really want to cook everyday... but I figure since this is a blog that is related to all things food, I can get away with posting cookbook reviews, restaurant reviews, food reviews, appliance reviews, just about anything I want because, after all, it's my blog!

So today, I am taking the lazy woman's approach and reviewing a candy product that is, in my opinion, to die for (and, if you've had gastric-bypass surgery, that could be a real possibility after eating them.)

I don't really consider my self a jealous person, except when it comes to a few things... one of those things are people who have a Whole Foods, Wegman's or a Trader Joe's in driving distance.  These people probably don't even realize what they have, or how lucky they are!

I live in a small town called New Hartford a suburb of Utica, New York.  I love this town, raised my children here, have had a good life here, but as a culinary mecca, it is lacking.  Mind you, this is not a complaint, just a statement of fact.  I love it here, of course, if I could, I might make it a little bit warmer, maybe have a little less snowfall (we turn the heat on in August, and off in May) but it is beautiful here, especially in the summer. 

But, we don't really have a gourmet grocery store, or even gourmet food shops, no stores that specialize in just cheese, or just cupcakes, or just anything different.  Which is why, when I travel, I like to do my sightseeing in the grocery stores.  Case in point, I drove my son David for an interview for a residency position in Hartford, Connecticut recently, and had a lot of time to kill before I had to drop him at the airport for the next interview.  Where did I go, Barnes and Noble to buy a few more cookbooks (I had a coupon I just couldn't waste) and a Trader Joe's that I stumbled upon while getting lost.

I am not new to Trader Joe's, after all, there is one in Las Vegas, where I seem to be spending more and more time these days, but there isn't one in Upstate New York.  Now, there is a Wegman's if I want to drive 45 minutes, and a Whole Foods in Manhattan (about 5 hours away) but I don't know of a Trader Joe's that is closer than Long Island. I ask you, do they need all their stores in Long Island and the five boroughs?  New York is a small state,  but we have a population too, first Congressman Gary Akerman says, "I don't do Utica", then no Wegman's, no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe's.  We Upstaters count too!  We  work, we pay our taxes, last time I checked, we even vote.  So in return, we get (when we get them) third tier stores (did you ever compare a Bed, Bath, and Beyond here, and one in New Jersey???) or in most cases, no stores (it took living here almost 15 years to get a book store yay Barnes and Noble for giving us a chance.)  

Please listen to us too, put a ________store here!!!!!
(fill in the blank with whatever store  you dream of.)  Don't you get it, we travel to find your stores, but we'd like to be able to spend our money locally, and support our economy.  I for one believe it is my patriotic duty to shop and support the American economy, and I tell that to my husband all the time.  Okay, I'll stop the ranting and get back to Trader Joe's...

I know that my daughter Lauren loves the dark chocolate covered pretzels at Trader Joe's, so I thought perhaps I would be a nice mother, and mail her some for the holidays (December is probably the only time of the year you can mail chocolate to Las Vegas anyway.)

As I was meandering through Trader Joe's ($350.00 later, and no it wasn't all pretzels that I bought) I happened across a box (right up by the check-out counter) of Sea Salt Caramels

Now, being the nice mother that I am, I thought, gee, my son Jeffrey likes Caramels, so I'll buy this box for him.  Alas, he was so stuffed after eating all the goodies from Chanukah and Christmas, that the little box went untouched.  

What to do... it was calling my name, I was compelled to open the box, and so at 3:00 am (I am a night owl and so I could claim this was breakfast) I gravitated toward the pantry, removed the box from the shelf, and opened it.

The candy was intriguing to look at, it was dark chocolate with granules of sea salt sprinkled gently across the top, not overpowering,  just a hint...just enough. Now, I am normally a salt-a-holic, give me a good bag of potato chips or popcorn and I'm happy, but to have chocolate and salt in the same bite, this could be wonderful, and when you toss in the dark chocolate, you just moved up the ladder to heavenly, nirvana, the whole ball of wax, whatever!

Then  came the mistake, I bit into one, and when the first taste hit my tongue, I knew I was in trouble.  It was delicious!  The caramel was not the chewy caramel I had been expecting, but a loose runny confection with a creamy, buttery taste.  Next came the wow of the dark chocolate and to round out what my sons might call a "hat trick" came the zing of the salt.

I thought I died and went to heaven.  

Now, these should come with a caution label: If you are a gastric by-pass patient you may suffer from dumping syndrome upon ingesting this
delicious confection.

I must tell you as an aside, that since the surgery, if I eat sweets, you do get what is called "dumping syndrome", it makes you tired, sometimes sweaty, and your heart can race. But it was 3:00 am and I thought what the heck, maybe I'll fall asleep, and if one is good, two would be better.  So, I ate one, and then another, and in fifteen minutes, I was in a coma (okay, not literally), but I did get a good nights sleep, didn't finish my book, and didn't really care.

So, the moral is, once in awhile you can cheat, and still live to tell the tale...

These are delicious, and thank goodness, they are only around at the holidays, if you can get hold of a box, try them.

Last but not least, when reading my blog or any blog, website, reviewers comments, remember that they are the opinion of the writer. If you don't like the review, think there are other chocolates that are better, or restaurants that are better, you're probably right, but this is my opinion... Don't get me wrong, I'd love to hear your opinion too, but that's all they are, our opinions.  If you try the candy and don't like it, okay.  If you go to the restaurant and didn't have a good meal, that happens too,  the chef may have had a bad day, or not shown up, you know what they say,
"sh__ happens", life is too short, so relax and enjoy!

PS:  I do hope you enjoy reading these blogs and that they make you laugh just a little :)