Musing on food and cooking ...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Silent Auction

Well, I finally decided what to donate for the silent auction at my College's staff holiday party - three gifts certificates for Gourmet Goddess Adventures! I even made up little certificates and everything. They are totally cute and professional.

The first is helping to plan, shop for, and prepare a romantic dinner for two. The second is helping to plan, shop for, and prepare a family style vegetarian meal. The third is helping to plan, shop for, and prepare a summer garden party. I hope the three will bring in at least $200!

The auction is the middle of December. I will report back with results!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Day of Turkey Destruction

Thanksgiving is a great day but really only because it is all about food. At least for me. And even when I am by myself, I go all out and make a whole turkey.

This year, I actually had two Thanksgivings. I went to the early seating at the school's catered Thanksgiving for everyone stuck on campus. It was bad, but it was mostly cafeteria food. The stuffing was ok, the green beans were in a really soupy casserole sauce, and everything with yams and 'taters and squash was just too damn sweet for me. But they had fabulous whipped cream for the pumpking pie and a great food salad.

Luckily, I can really only eat a little bit at a time and so I went home and I made a second Turkey Day dinner to eat after 6 pm. I made a broth with giblets, onions, and celery and then made stuffing (the old family favorite - with a can of mushroom soup added as well as giblets from the broth). Then I stuffed that in my turkey and shoved it in an oven bag and roasted for about 3 hours. For the last 30 mins, I opened up the bag so the turkey could get golden. I also made homemade gravy and cranberry sauce and a salad, and really that's all I need.

For the turkey though I do try to get a small one, which casues the meat department guy a lot of amusement. There's me, half in the freezer with my legs flapping in the breeze. It worked, though. I managed to find a 9 pounder.

And don't tell me to just get a breast. yuckola... I am a wing and thigh woman all the way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Travels!

The article excerpt below remainds of the many times I have travelled by plane with food items in my carry-on. I have not generally had too many problems, although I have gotten weird looks about bags of bloody looking, obviously home-packaged, meat. I had one problem right after 9-11 when they thought my granola bar might be an explosive and another problem bringing some soup bones back from my mom's house, as the screeners thought they might be human leg bones. They weren't but he was right to be suspicious. I am from Wisconsin, land of Ed Gein and various other serial killers and corpse mutilators, after all.

Excerpt from Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot column. Read the whole thing at

New carry-on rules mean those security lines are going to be abominable this week, perhaps making for juicier than normal footage. I'll be watching from a safe distance, snickering at the television: "Really, how can a nation that doesn't allow cranberry sauce on a plane not be the safest nation on earth?"

There's a certain weirdness to the idea of food being a potential terrorist weapon, but since the TSA has insisted on bringing this absurdity to bear, here's a brainteaser: mashed potatoes. A few years ago we learned that holiday fruitcakes are prone to set off airport explosives detectors, but in light of the new liquids and gels prohibitions, what about mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes are a hybrid threat: not quite solid, not quite liquid, and only semi-gel-like (unless they're overcooked). Am I allowed to bring a Tupperware container full of mashed onto my flight?

You think this is silly, and it is, but a week ago my mother caused a small commotion at a checkpoint at Boston-Logan after screeners discovered a large container of homemade tomato sauce in her bag. What with the preponderance of spaghetti grenades and lasagna bombs, we can all be proud of their vigilance. And, as a liquid, tomato sauce is in clear violation of the Transportation Security Administration's carry-on statutes. But this time, there was a wrinkle:

The sauce was frozen.

No longer in its liquid state, the sauce had the guards in a scramble. According to my mother's account, a supervisor was called over to help assess the situation. He spent several moments stroking his chin. "He struck me as the type of person who spent most of his life traveling with the circus," says Mom, who never pulls a punch, "and was only vaguely familiar with the concept of refrigeration." Nonetheless, drawing from his experiences in grade-school chemistry and at the TSA academy, he sized things up. "It's not a liquid right now," he observantly noted. "But it will be soon."

"I wonder if this isn't a test," murmured another guard. The dreaded, mind-bending, what-if-it's-frozen test.

"Please," urged my mother. "Please don't take away my dinner."

Lo and behold, they did not. Whether out of confusion, sympathy or embarrassment, she was allowed to pass with her murderous marinara.
Kim Chee

I went to a Korean grocery market recommended by my A Cook's Guide to Chicago the other day. This market - Chicago Food Corp - is easy to drive to but parking is almost impossible. I spent close to 30 minutes waiting to get in the parking lot and it took another 10-15 to wend my way into a spot. For as popular as this place is, they really need a lot as big as WalMart's but instead have one the size of a Hummer.

Chicago Food Corp is actually a combo lunch counter, supermarket with a killer fish and meat section, drugstore, and Ace Hardware. From what I could smell, the lunch counter must be fabulous, but I had no time for a snack as I was shopping for Kim Chee.

Most Westerners describe kim chee as a spicy Korean sauerkraut, and there is some truth to that. it is fermented and made out of a type of cabbage and it is spicy, but that is just the basic kim chee. You can have all sorts of greens kim cheed. One of the spiciest is green garlic stem, which I find to be so hot it blisters my tongue. I have also had a sweet dried squid kim chee and white kim chee, which is just fermented nappa, carrots, and other veggies but without any red pepper.

At Chicago Food Corp, the hav a kim chee bar where you can pick up small dishes of a wide variety of kim chee and pickles as well as a kim chee refrigerator, which has its own staff person. I went over there to pick up a large bottle of white kim chee and a large bottle of medium spicy kim chee. The poor staff woman was a bit flumoxed. Maybe white people in Chicago don't like kim chee. Or maybe she was just so excited that I wanted multiple types of kim chee, I don't know. But she was so excited that I was there, we ended up having a 15 minute discussion on the types of kim chee in the frig and she helped me avoid the ones that I would find too spicy.

Sadly, I don't like the medium spiced kim chee I got here as well as the stuff I got at the Japanese supermarket in Arlington Heights. I tend to like my kim chee medium spicy and very pickled, while this stuff was more spicy and less pickled. It is not bad by any means. It is just not my favorite. I won't tend to eat it for breakfast with my brown rice, which is something I actually like doing.

Still it makes an excellent kim chee tofu stew.

Take 8 oz of tofu and cut into cubes. Throw is in a non-oxidizing pan (not cast iron here - enamel or clay works best). Add in about a cup of spicy kim chee and juice (you might have to cut it up if it comes in huge chunks rather than bite-size pieces). Cook until hot. This makes 1-2 servings, depending on how hungry you are. Serve with plenty of brown rice. it's even better the second day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Silent Auction

So, I didn't get as many suggestions for cooking lessons I could donate to the silent auction as I had hoped, but here they are:

From Donna - I like them both – and since you do so well with seafood, how about something along those lines? Seafood is tricky to cook – who couldn’t use some tips? That rabbit dish you made was soooooooo good. Do you have to buy the food? What about some of the great stuff you made for Thanksgiving? Not everyone wants to eat a big greasy thanksgiving or Christmas meal, and you have some really yummy healthy dishes. Do a special healthy Christmas dinner for 2 maybe? I want to win that.

Yeah, the three other friends who replied liked the original suggestions, except that everyone did suggest offering lessons on healthy cooking. I wonder if this is a major need and a trend I will see more often. A coworker and her husband with whom I shared my pumpkin curry has suggested that if I decide I want to make a major career shift and become a personal chef for time-starved Lake Forest families, I could probably make a killing. Thinking about going for that degree in holistic nutrition is looking more and more viable.

Monday, November 13, 2006


My workplace is having a silent auction as part of its faculty-staff holiday lunch. All the money raised through the auction goes to the Northern Illinois Food Bank (way cool!). Employees can donate items and services, and several of my coworkers are suggesting that I donate either cooking or cooking lessons. If you have any suggestions on theme cooking lessons I could offer, let me know asap!

I am thinking of donating lessons along the line of "Romantic Vegetarian Dinner" or "Having your cake and eating it too." Send suggestions my way!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Offal Cooking

My friend Jenn is going to hate this post, but it is my homage to thriftiness.

See, I am a big fan of most forms of offal.... gizzards, liver, heart, tails... all those parts that no one except the very poor used to use. I love them because they are a challenge. They are hard to cook and make them tender and tasty. I am particularly fond of ox tails, which are actually quite hard to find nowadays and, even at the ethnic market, are often more than $3 a pound. But, if you work with them right, they are incredible!

This is what I do:

Get about 1.5 pounds of ox tails. If you can, get the ones that are larger. They get more tender and have more meat and less bone. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of shallot salt (go Penzeys!) over the tails and then brown in a Dutch oven. Add in 2 teaspoons dried Rosemary, 1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme, pepper, and 2 Bay leaves. Stir. Then add 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup dried chopped leeks, and 1 quart of beef stock. Put in a 325 degree oven and cook until the meat is soft and tender (braising!). I find that 3 hours is usually just fine. I serve my ox tails with baked potatoes and green beans. They are messy to eat, but yummy!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Big Shit Pie, aka Election Day

So Election Day is here again. And I cannot tell you how glad I am that it is almost over. The ads this year have been particularly bad - on both sides. And, frankly, most of the ads are full of shit, which means the only food related item I can do today is a Big Shit Pie. Which I won't do, because it is nasty.

The only good thing about is that shit makes things grow, so if we all vote and vote intelligently, we can help our country grow for the better.

One thing I am concerned about - in addition to all the voting machine issues - is that polling places tend to be in churches now. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? Someone said they have polling there because they have big meeting spaces. Um, isn't that why we have town halls? And senior centers and whatnot? I don't know....

Anyway, it is almost over... thank goodness. Only two more years until Bush is dethroned, providing he doesn't pull a Hitler on us, declare a state or martial law, and really enthrone himself as dictator for life.....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thai Me Down!

Thanks to a date, I have found an excellent Thai restaurant.

Finding good ethnic restaurants in the 'burbs has been difficult. I have found decent Indian food and excellent sushi but nothing else. The Thai I have tried has not been actually Thai. The one Thai place that had decent food was not all that Thai either and the service was awful.

I knew I would have to go into the city to get good ethnic food, and I was right.

So Sunday I had a date, and after a truffle tasting at a fancy chocolatier, we went to a Thai restaurant called P.S. Bangkok. I had the Rama Chicken curry, which is chicken and spinach in a peanut and tamarind sauce. My date had the mussle pancake. Both were delicious. I wish I could have brought the remains of my dish home, but we were going to a small theater afterward, and the smell of curry would have been rude.

My date says that the Nigerian restaurant across the street is also good. I've never had Nigerian, but the man seems to know food, so maybe I will give it a shot!

Now, for poor Jenn trapped in China, a sandwich recipe -

Take a nice piece of crusty baguette, slice, spread with a thin layer of mayonaisse. Add some slices of red ripe tomato, a bit of crisp butter lettuce, and a thin layer of your favorite deli meat (I like ham) and a slice of muenster cheese. Squish it all together and enjoy!