Monday, July 31, 2006

Basil Lemonade

Perhaps I hadn't been paying attention. But it suddenly seems that -- all at once -- every foodie magazine and television show has a Basil Lemonade recipe.

It seems like an odd combination. While I like both, this isn't a "you got chocolate in my peanut butter" home-run fusion.

But the hype got to me. The result is ... meh. Essentially, it tastes like you're drinking lemonade near a frangrant basil plant. The basil flavor isn't really there, just the scent. Other than novelty, I'm not sure I see the point.

My favorite lemonade recipe uses ReaLemon (a splash of vodka doesn't hurt either).

Basil Lemonade (from )

(Note: I doubled the amount of sugar and lemon juice in the recipe below; before that, I felt the drink was too bland --LR)

1/2 cup rinsed, lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp sugar
4 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a 1 1/2 to 2-quart measure or bowl, combine 1/2 cup rinsed, lightly packed fresh basil leaves and 3 T. sugar. With a wooden spoon, crush leaves with sugar until thoroughly bruised. Add 4 cups water and 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir until sugar is dissolved, l to 2 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Pour through fine strainer into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with springs of fresh basil.

You can make the lemonade up to a day ahead; cover and chill. Makes: 4 1/2 cups, about 4 servings.

Grade: C+

Sunday, July 30, 2006

USDA Bans Import of Older Canadian Cattle Beef Due to Mad Cow Concerns

From the Calgary Sun:

July 29, 2006
Small beef over cow delay --Minimal impact expected after U.S. postpones lifting ban on older cattle


The latest U.S. beef over mad cow disease in Canada has delayed the border reopening but only temporarily, say cattle experts.

National agencies, including the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA), insisted yesterday any impact on the industry would be minimal after the American government decided to push back lifting a ban on imports of older cattle from Canada.

Echoing the sentiments of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), CCA spokesman Rob McNabb said it's simply another frustrating delay the beef industry has endured since mad cow disease shut down the border to Canadian cows in May 2003.

"It's rattling some cages, but it's not terribly surprising," McNabb said. "It's just
another delay that's obviously disappointing, and unfortunately we've been faced
with a number of those."

The U.S. Agriculture Department said yesterday more cases of mad cow disease have postponed the reopening to older Canadian cattle pending an investigation into the latest case.

Canada has found seven cows infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Four have tested positive for the disease this year.

Some were born after the Canadian government implemented safety precautions related to cattle feed to prevent livestock from getting the brain-wasting illness.

The U.S. government was poised to resume imports of older cattle, but the agriculture department halted those plans to await the completion of investigations into Canada's recent cases.

"This time, the delay is a little more sensational, because they've had to take back the rule after having submitted it to the office of management and business in the U.S.," McNabb said.

"They have to do that to add information even if it's just in the background of the rule relative to the latest case that we're investigating, and they can't add that until they have the final investigation report from CFIA."

McNabb added the issue is with the process as the rule can't change while it's in the office of management and budget.

I'm a little confused with the USDA's actions at this point. They're banning some Canadian beef yet reducing testing in US cows? I'm all for being cautious towards imported beef, but how about being more cautious with our own?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States

My day job (one of them) is teaching Media and Communications at two colleges; this fall, I'll be teaching Business Communications, Journalism I, and Introduction to Mass Communications. I have a B.A. in Communication Arts and an M.A. in Media Ecology; on occasion, I toy with the idea of pursuing a Ph.D., particularly if it were in Pop Culture studies.

"OK," you're thinking. "Blah, blah blah. What does this have to do with food?" Well, Dr. John Harmon, a professor of Geography at Central Connecticut State University, doesn't have a Ph.D. in Pop Culture, but he did create the The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States. Harmon has mapped and detailed a some foods popular in "the North Country" like Buffalo chicken wings (I'm not an Anchor Bar fan myself...), the spiedie, and potato chips.

Here's an excerpt from the article on Buffalo chicken wings:

Most people who have even thought about the origin have heard and believe the first version of the legend . Teressa and Frank Bellisimo owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. In this version, she invented Buffalo chicken wings in 1964 when her son Dominic and his friends came to the bar looking for a quick late night snack. "Mother Teressa" (Buffalonians take their wings very seriously) was preparing to make chicken stock with a bunch of wings and, improvising, stuck them under the broiler (later they switched to deep frying), sprinkled them with a hot sauce she concocted from a commercially available base (Frank's), took some celery sticks off the antipasto dishes, put some blue cheese dressing (the house dressing) in a small bowl and served them.

All the principals are now deceased, but Dominic, who took over the bar from his parents, told the story differently to Calvin Trillin (1980) of the New Yorker magazine. According to Dominic, it was Friday night in the bar and since people were buying a lot of drinks he wanted to do something nice for them at midnight when the mostly Catholic patrons would be able to eat meat again. So, according to this version, Dom did not stop by with his friends, he was trying to be the good host at the bar. It was still Terressa who came up with the idea.

Frank told a third story. It involved a mis-delivery of wings instead backs and necks for making the bar's spaghetti sauce. Faced with this unexpected resource, he says he asked Teressa to do something with them.

Visit the site for more foodie tidbits.

Flurry & Weekend Dog Blogging

"If you let me back in the house, I promise I won't bite the neighbor that's helping you move. Well ... not hard, anyway."

Thanks to Cate at Sweetnicks for hosting.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Chocolate Jello Pudding Pops

There are few Cosby-related items I remember vividly from childhood:

Fat Albert, watched in the afternoon on FOX 5. (The Brown Hornet: a tv show within a tv show. So meta!)

The Cosby Show, with Claire Huxtable as perfection in an 80s power suit. (Pretty! Smart! Sophisticated! Did I mention pretty?)

Chocolate Jell-o Pudding Pops; loved them. So much better than a fudgesicle – so worth begging for in the freezer section of Waldbaum’s. Opening the plastic wrapper would release a tiny puff of artic air and the vague scent of chocolate. Each pop would be carefully raked with my insicors, removing the delicate layer of ice before allowing myself to savor the chocolately goodness.

I can’t find them now, so I tried to make them at home. I accidentally bought Chocolate Fudge pudding instead of regular chocolate, so the flavor is off -- at least, I think that's it. The flavor isn't as sweet, nor is the consistancy as milky (and no protective layer ice!).

If you like chocolate popsicles, then by all means, whip these up. But they don’t have Bill Cosby’s seal of approval.

Thanks to Meeta at What's For Lunch, Honey? for hosting Monthly Mingle #3!

JELL-O Homemade Pudding Pops (recipe from Kraft)

2 cups cold 2-percent milk
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Instant Pudding & Pie Filling, any flavor

Pour cold milk into medium bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Spoon into 6 (5-oz.) paper or plastic cups. Insert wooden pop stick or plastic spoon into each for handle.

Freeze 5 hours or until firm. To remove pop from cup, place bottom of cup under warm running water for 15 seconds. Press firmly on bottom of cup to release pop. (Do not twist or pull pop stick.) Store leftover pops in freezer.

Grade: B

Please can I have one?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This is freakin’ good. No, GREAT!

Not only is it delicious but it’s simple to make and looks lovely. It would be a nice entree for an impromptu dinner party – all you’d need is a light tasting wine, a loaf of crusty bread, and a salad tossed with a simple vinaigrette. (Get the guests to bring dessert.)

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce (adapted from an recipe)

2 small garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
3 lb. tomatoes
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. pasta (either angel hair or thin spaghetti)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Additional Salt to taste

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with 1 tsp. salt using a large heavy knife. Coarsely chop two thirds of tomatoes. Halve remaining tomatoes crosswise, then rub cut sides of tomatoes against large holes of a box grater set in a large bowl, reserving pulp and discarding skin. Toss pulp with chopped tomatoes, garlic paste, oil, and pepper. Let stand until ready to use, at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours.

While tomatoes stand, cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander and place in a serving bowl. Top with tomato mixture, followed by a sprinkling of basil. Before serving, toss ingredients to combine. Top with parmesan, EVOO, and salt to taste.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

Grade: A+

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quorn & More on US Beef

Adapted Mexican Meat-zza made with Quorn grounds.

I cooked up an adapted version of Rachael Ray's Mexican Meat-zza last night using Quorn Grounds, a vegatarian alternative to beef. It comes in 12 oz. packages and, according to the manufacturer, can be "sauté[d], bake[d], or microwave[d ...] as you would ground beef or other similar meatless product."

The grounds look very similar to cooked ground beef, although there were a number of frozen clumps that had to be broken up before cooking. It heats up fairly quickly (5 minutes over med-high heat) and is pretty flavorless.

The kids had no idea they weren't eating beef until I told them (I think they thought I'd forgotten about our swearing off of beef and chose not to remind me). Shane liked it as well, but I found it bland (though as Kevin pointed out, I'm suffering from mad-about-not-eating-cow disease).

Quorn grounds before thawing (notice the clumps).

Quorn grounds, with seasonings, after cooking.

On a related topic, I just read the following on (I am obsessed with it). Keep in mind that this was written one year ago, before the USDA further reduced its testing for Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (Mad Cow Disease):

Is it safe to eat U.S. beef?
Since the Department of Agriculture currently tests only 1 percent of all cows slaughtered in the U.S., compared with 25 percent in Europe and 100 percent in Japan, we do not have reliable information on the safety of beef in this country. Until more information is available, individuals need to make a judgment about their risk tolerance, according to Consumers Union’s food-safety experts. If eating beef is not very important to you, you might want to forgo it until more is known. If you want to eat beef, you can limit your risk by avoiding the foods most likely to carry mad cow disease: brains and processed beef products that may contain nervous-system tissue, such as hamburger, hot dogs, and sausage. Organic, biodynamic, or 100 percent grass-fed beef carries the least risk, since the cattle are not fed any animal remains. Steak and hamburger that's ground while you watch are also lower-risk.

Is the U.S. doing everything possible to guard against an epidemic of mad cow disease? Consumers Union believes the federal government should take added steps to end practices that could undermine the safety of meat. "The U.S. needs to be far more pro-active in protecting the American food supply," says Mike Hansen, PhD, senior research associate at Consumers Union, which has been fighting for the following changes for years.

Screen far more cattle for the disease. The U.S. tested some 370,000 cows between June 1, 2004, and May 31, 2005, out of a total herd of about 97 million, of which 37 million were slaughtered. By contrast, in Europe every single animal above a given age gets tested.

Outlaw the feeding of the remains of any mammal to any animals that humans eat.

Tighten the law on dietary supplements; it currently allows supplements to contain material from the animal parts most likely to contain the mutant protein.

Require doctors and hospitals to report all cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chocolate Cupcakes

Happy birthday kid.

Moving has turned me into a horrible bitch goddess . (Well, all right, not that alone -- there was always a natural tendency.) Packing is boring, cleaning is tedious, waiting on mortgages is nervewracking, bleeding money is horrifying. For the past two weeks, my inclination is to bury myself in a den of my own making (couch with blanket pulled over my head) with only my DVR/Cable hookup and laptop accompanying me. And maybe some cookies.

There are short bursts of time when I can shake off the funk and be social, but they leave me pretty wrung out afterward. (This is what happens to INFJs in times of stress, I suppose.) Our recent habit of staying up 'til 1am every night probably isn't helping either.

Saturday was one of those times. We celebrated Sadie's 8th birthday with an Asian-themed party at the Finger Lakes Martial Arts studio. For the first hour, Sifu Jerry worked them like tiny mules: stretching, jumping, kicking, running. And they had a great time doing it. (Though I think Sifu Jerry has a tiny sadistic streak he plays up for the the parents watching. There's nothing like watching a mouthy kid be forced to do extra push-ups.)

After the martial arts session, the kids ate chips, pretzels, red fruit punch and chocolate cupcakes topped with red (for good luck) frosting and fortune cookies (thanks to Lis for the idea!). They played Chinese jump rope, made funny faces into the studio mirror, and beat the snot out of a punching bag. A good time was had by all.

The cupcakes were delicious - chocolately and moist. The frosting was boring; intentionally so because kids can be fussy. Not that it mattered -- some of them scraped it off anyway. Next time, I'd go with a chocolate or cream cheese frosting -- but the cupcakes were kick-ass. Both recipes are adapted from those belonging to The Martha.

Chocolate cupcakes frosted with easy "white" icing.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. milk, room temp.
2.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350-degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set dry ingredients aside.

Place butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 50-percent power at 40 to 60 second intervals until melted; stir between intervals. Transfer contents to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add milk, stirring to combine.

Stir in 1 cup sugar. Add reserved dry ingredients and beat until well combined. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine. Pour batter into tins.

Transfer baking sheet to oven, and bake until domes form and a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12.


Easy White Icing

1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 pound (3 2/3 cups) confectioners' sugar, plus more if needed
1 tsp. vanilla
Food Coloring (optional)
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk (optional, especially if using food coloring)

In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth. Gradually add confectioners' sugar; beat until smooth. Add vanilla and food coloring; beat until well combined. (Scrape bowl's sides frequently.) If too thick to spread, beat in milk. More than enough for 12 standard cupcakes.

Grade: Cupcakes, A; Frosting, B-.

The goodie "bag" in a take-out box, fan on the side.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Kid-Friendly Turkey Burgers

I pulled this recipe from for Saturday night. The kids did love them, as did Shane. I thought they were kind of bland (missing beef, I guess) nor did I care for the breadcrumbs, though no one else seemed to notice them.

It's not a horrible burger, just boring (note the amount of toppings recommended in the recipe).

A few notes: I substituted garlic salt for the regular salt, reduced the turkey to one pound and the breadcrumbs to a cup, and doubled the amount of olive oil. Even with the reduced amount of turkey, the burgers were big and filling.

Kid-Friendly Turkey Burgers
1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
½ onion, very finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds ground turkey meat
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 buns, warmed
Lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced red onion, pickle for serving
Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, for serving

Combine breadcrumbs, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, and ground turkey in a medium bowl. Mix with hands until well-blended. Form mixture into four patties, about 1/2-inch thick.

Heat a grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Place patties on grill pan. Cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, until completely cooked through. The juices should run clear when poked with a knife. Once patties are flipped, top each with a slice of cheese. Transfer burgers to warmed buns. Serve immediately with choice of toppings. Makes 4 servings.

Grade: B-

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bye Bye Beef

From Reuters, 6/20/06: USDA to reduce mad cow testing program by 90 pct

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government will scale down its mad cow surveillance program by 90 percent to reflect a smaller presence of the disease in the United States, but reduced testing should not slow efforts to reopen a foreign markets to U.S. beef, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will reduce its cattle-testing level to 40,000 head per year. That will be down from an average of about 30,000 head each month since June 2004, after discovery of animals with the disease prompted fears that resulted in Japan, Korea and other countries banning U.S. beef.

The reduced testing level, to take effect after 30 days, will cost $8 million a year, down from $1 million per week at the height of testing. USDA said it will focus on the "most at-risk animals" that show telltale signs of the disease.

As sad as I am to say it, we're swearing off beef. We were wary before and have done limited bursts of not eating beef, but the USDA's irresponsibility on this is too much to ignore. (Having said that, I'm open to eating organic beef, though Shane remains suspicious.)

"Those who are attempting to cause consumers to believe that somehow they're protected by testing really aren't being fair with consumers," said Johanns. "It's pretty blunt, but it's true," he said.

Interesting: Johanns is essentially saying that the USDA's lack of oversight regarding cattle feeding policies has resulted in a culinary crap shoot anytime anyone wants to tuck into a steak. How comforting.

What happens if you are infected with "mad cow"? Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Unlike the other kinds of infectious disease which are spread by microbes, the infectious agent in BSE [Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, aka mad cow] is a specific type of protein. Misshapen ("misfolded") prion proteins carry the disease between individuals and cause deterioration of the brain. BSE is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). [...] Transmission can occur when healthy animals consume tainted tissues from others with the disease. In the brain these proteins cause native cellular prion protein to deform into the infectious state
which then goes on to deform further prion protein in an exponential cascade. These aggregate to form dense plaque fibers, which lead to the microscopic appearance of "holes" in the brain, degeneration of physical and mental abilities and ultimately death. Some TSE's are resistant to extreme temperatures and are not affected by household disinfectants.

The human version of BSE is Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). "Regular" Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a bit different from vCJD, but the symptoms are similar. From Wikipedia:

The first symptom of CJD is rapidly progressive dementia, leading to memory loss, personality changes and hallucinations. This is accompanied by physical problems such as speech impairment, jerky movements (myoclonus), balance and coordination dysfunction (ataxia), changes in gait, rigid posture, and seizures. The duration of the disease varies greatly, but sporadic (non-inherited) CJD can be fatal within months or even weeks (Johnson, 1998). In most patients, these symptoms are followed by involuntary movements and the appearance of a typical diagnostic electroencephalogram tracing.
The symptoms of CJD are caused by the progressive death of the brain's nerve cells, which is associated with the build-up of abnormal prion proteins. When brain tissue from a CJD patient is examined under a microscope, many tiny holes can be seen where whole areas of nerve cells have died. The word 'spongiform' in 'transmissible spongiform encephalopathies' refers to the 'spongy' appearance of the brain tissue.

Of vCJD, Wikipedia reports it is:

distinguished from the classical type by its early onset (usually in the 20s) and a predominance of psychiatric and sensory symptoms. The prions in this form are thought to be transmitted by consuming the nervous tissue of bovines with so-called mad cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), although there is no definite proof of this association as yet. It has been shown, however, that PRPSc particles accumulate in gastrointestinal lymphoid tissue (specifically, Peyer's patches) in animals after oral infection (Maignien et al 1999; Beekes and McBride, 2000;
Shmakov and Ghosh, 2001; Ghosh 2002). Furthermore, in vitro studies have shown the uptake of these particles by human gastrointestinal tract cells (Morel et al, 2005). Further suggestive of an oral route of transmission in humans is the fact that over 95% of identified cases of vCJD are in Britain, which suffered a mad cow disease epidemic in the mid-80s. There are very few cases of vCJD. In Britain in 2005, 5 people died from vCJD. There are currently 5 people alive with vCJD in Britain.

You might notice that the connection between BSE and vCJD isn't proven and that "there are very few cases of vCJD." Dementia, personality changes, hallucinations, speech imparement, seizures? ONE case of vCJD is one too many. I shudder at the thought of contracting this disease, let alone someone I love. The kids are disappointed -- adiós burgers -- but no more beef.

I'll miss you, but I'd miss my mind more.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding

Armed with a loaf of stale bakery bread and a pint of beautiful blueberries that weren’t getting any younger, I came up with a recipe for Blueberry Bread Pudding.

Really – I came up with it! It’s my creation!

When I enrolled in my first cooking class five years ago, my ultimate goal was to walk into a kitchen, see what ingredients were on-hand, and whip up something delicious. No cookbooks, no recipes, no advice – just raw ingredients and some ingenuity.

Half a decade later, I’m not there yet. I marvel at those who can create wonderful recipes – how do they do it? Maybe inventive chefs are like astrophysicists: they just “get” what they're doing.

But I’m proud of this – a bread pudding for the summer months. It has a gentle sweetness with hints of vanilla, lemon, and nutmeg all supporting the star of the show: fresh blueberries. While cooking, the berries’ juice runs a bit, infusing the whole custard with its flavor. The texture is creamy and comforting, off set by a bit of caramelized brown sugar crunch.

Even Señor Ocho Perrito enjoyed it.

Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding

5 c. stale white bread, cubed (optional: remove crusts)
1 pint blueberries, washed, picked over, and dried
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
2 c. milk, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature, beaten
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp. nutmeg
3 to 4 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Butter or grease a 9-inch square cake pan. Place bread cubes and berries in pan, tossing to combine. Place pan on a cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, and eggs whisking to combine. Add lemon extract, vanilla, and nutmeg, whisking to combine.

Pour milk mixture over bread and berries. Weigh the bread down by placing a plate or pan on top of the mixture, held down with a few cans from the cupboard. Let sit for about five minutes, making sure the bread gets good and soaked.

Remove pan and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake pudding for 45-55 minutes or until a knife stuck into the center comes out fairly clean. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Allow to cool before covering; store in the refrigerator.


Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Summer Fruit Salsa

Photo courtesy of

Our good friends Ken and Andrea invited us to dinner last night. We had grilled shrimp with a fruit salsa; Andrea had found the recipe in the June issue of Cooking Light. (Lis, I thought of you!) Andrea and I did the prep work -- basically lots of chopping -- and Ken cooked the shrimp. (Shane drank East India Pale Ale and ate tortilla chips -- hee hee.)

It's a lovely, light, summer's meal. (Especially when you can eat it on your friends' deck, overlooking Seneca Lake.) When I make this again -- and I will -- I'm going to try leaving out the mint, pepper, and onions. I think a purely sweet salsa with be an interesting complement to the shrimp.

(Thanks to Adam for hosting Carnival of the Grill!)

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Summer Fruit Salsa

1/2 cup chopped ripe plum (about 1)
1/2 cup diced apricots (about 2)
1/2 cup diced nectarine (about 1)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced seeded serrano chile (we used a jalepeno)
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
12 sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 green onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
24 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
6 lime wedges
Mint sprigs (optional)

To prepare salsa, combine the first 13 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Prepare grill.

To prepare shrimp, place butter, 2 teaspoons juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic, and shrimp in a large bowl; toss to coat. Thread 4 shrimp onto each of 6 (12-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill for 3 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done. Serve with salsa and lime wedges. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 kebab, 1/3 cup salsa, and 1 lime wedge)

Grade: A-

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Lemon blueberry bundt, with fresh bluberries and
lemon zest tucked in the center.

Last Friday, Carolyn invited a slew of people over for a hot dog cookout (really a weenie roast - so retro!). Armed with portable chairs, we sat in her backyard and ate, overlooking her chickens, ducks, and the wheat (?) field beyond her lawn. It was really nice.

There were, of course, hot dogs (though everybody wimped out and didn't cook them over a fire, choosing instead to grill them) plus sides that the guests supplied: chips, salad, pasta salad, lemonade, baked beans - it was a nice spread. For dessert, we toasted marshmallows over a fire and made s'mores (the best summertime treat) and for those who weren't interested in chocolate (or more accurately, wanted to load up on both) there was a lemon blueberry bundt.

Aside from the glaze (which was runnier than it should have been) the cake came together easily. It took a very long time to bake, much longer than the 50 minutes the recipe specified; maybe my oven is off again.

I really like the idea of a lemon cake studded with blueberries but this recipe, from Family Circle magazine, doesn't quite pull it off. I would have liked more of a lemon kick. Carolyn's mother, Liz, would have liked a bit more sweetness from the glaze. Maybe Martha's recipe would yield better results.

Looking over my shoulder just now, Shane asked if I wanted his opinion.

Knowing it wasn't going to be positive, I grunted an assent. He thought the cake was very dense, not sweet, and sort of bitter.

"It wasn't my favorite Laura dessert." (Perhaps the 8 hot dogs he ate threw off his sense of taste.) "Was that helpful?" he asked.

"Mmm-hmm," I replied.

Mentally, I gave him the finger. Eight-hot-dogs-eatin'-bastard.

Lemon Blueberry Bundt
2 ½ c. flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 ¾ c sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ c. blueberries

1 ½ c. confectioner’s sugar
6 to 7 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp corn syrup
Lemon zest for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla, beating until combined. Beat in flour in three additions, alternating with butter milk. Beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan; turn out and cool completely.

For the glaze, mix together confectioner’s sugar, juice, and corn syrup in a mall bowl until smooth. Drizzle over top of cake and let it roll down the sides. Serves 16.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Update: Closin' Cookies

It KILLED me not to mention this in the original Closin' Cookies post, but I did not on the advice of our realtors. I think now, however, I can safely reveal the story:

We put the house up for sale on a Friday night.

The next day - Saturday - we had two parties look at the house. The parties were offered fresh-baked, chocolate chip cookies .

By Saturday night, we had an offer. We accepted it on Sunday afternoon.

So thank you cookies. Thank you for selling our house.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #2 Round-Up

I think we have a dream spread here, folks. There is nary a healthy dish in sight. We are laden with sugar, fat, salt -- just the way people ate before they knew about cholesterol.

So get out your prescription for Lipitor and dig in.

The lovely AliCat from Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting .
“The Peanut Butter Cake was verrry good. I found the recipe online from a cookbook that was guessed to be published 50s or prior. I love this little cake,” she says. She even went the extra mile and adapted a recipe for peanut butter frosting.

Ali also made some descriptively named Cathedral Windows. “I don't recall my mom making these grow up, but I know a lot of you are familiar with the marshmallow - chocolaty goodness of the Cathedral Windows,” she wrote. “They are no bake and come together in a flash. They are also really gooood!”

Mooncrazy whipped up some vibrantly colored Picked Beets with Eggs, from her "mother-in-law Ann's Better Homes and Gardens new cook book" printed in 1953."
She “couldn't bear to make the Crown roast of Spam with potatoes” (hee hee hee) “so I thought I'd do the beets as I remember our mom bringing them to picnics when I was a kid.”

Retrofood whipped up a Kidney Bean Salad which sparked a bit of debate in her comments section.

Kathy Maister at The Main Dish pulls out that all-American classic, Lipton Onion Soup Mix Dip. “In this day of being health and calorie conscious,” writes Kathy, “the luxury of real sour cream is by-passed for fat-free sour cream or yogurt. These substitutes work - just. But they just don't have the luxurious taste of real sour cream. I do think Liptons must have a secret recipe with this soup mix because other brands don't work as well, in my opinion.”

Lastly, I threw together some Lime Honey dressing, which sounds a lot better than it actually tastes.

Thank you to all who participated! I appreciate your hard work and tempting contributions!

The next Retro Recipe Challenge won't be announced until the fall, so you have plenty of time to perfect that veal loaf recipe with orange sauce you've been dying to make.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Slacker's Shepherd Pie

Sometimes, you want something good to eat but can't muster the energy to do much of anything (much less photograph it for a blog entry).

Hence, Slacker's Shepherd Pie. Assemble, bake, and eat while laying on the couch, watching a stupid movie.

Shepherd Pie (from Real Simple magazine)

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 1.2-ounce package chicken gravy mix (such as Knorr)
1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
1 20-ounce package mashed potatoes (such as Simply Potatoes)
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the turkey until it is no longer pink. Add the gravy mix and 1 cup water. Stir frequently until the sauce comes to a boil; cook 1 minute. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish with vegetable cooking spray and spoon in the turkey. Top with the peas, followed by the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and the top is golden. Makes 4 servings.

Grade: B+

Thursday, July 13, 2006

RRC#2 Submission: Lime Honey Dressing

So appealing, don't you think?

The recipe for Lime Honey Dressing comes from the 1957 edition of Helen Corbitt’s Cookbook. Corbitt was the director of restaurants at the "famous" Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas. Here’s a partial description from the bookflap:
This Yankee-born authority on food is a truly creative cook and superlative party-giver. Earl Winston called her “the greatest cook in Texas.” The Duke of Windsor asked her how she made the Avocado Mousse she served him in Houston. Governors, politicians, college presidents, oilmen, and literary figures have for years requested the recipes for the superb dishes she created for Neiman-Marcus’ Zodiac Room.

Based on this recipe, I don’t know what all the fuss was about. It's dressing in theory: you know it’s there, but you can’t taste it. Even after I doubled the amount of lime juice, I could just barely detect a citrus flavor. Meh.

Hence, I’d serve this on an iceburg lettuce salad for a retro weenie roast: the titles of both just set you up for disappointment.

Lime Honey Dressing

1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup honey
1 cup salad oil
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. salt
Grated peel of 1 lime

Blend all ingredients and keep in a cool place.

Grade: C

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Net Neutrality Update

Save the Internet: Click here

From Tim Karr,

Dear blogger,

Net neutrality supporters are gearing up against a Senate vote on Sen. Ted "The Internet is a Series of Tubes" Stevens' telecommunications bill (S 2686). This bad bill fails to protect Net Neutrality. To preserve Internet freedom, we need to be sure that this bill gets overhauled or stopped in its tracks.

Today, we launched a Senate map that makes it ridiculously easy to a) figure out where your Senators stand, and b) urge them to take a public stance in support of internet freedom. The goal is to get as many senators on the record as possible before any vote on the Senate floor. You (and your readers) can help the cause by checking out the map and flooding the Senate with calls.

July is a pivotal month. The Senate leadership won't schedule a vote on Stevens' bad bill unless 60 senators say they'll vote for it. Now's the time to call senators and tell them to support Net Neutrality instead -- and to oppose last-ditch industry efforts to push through a bill that more and more Americans are turning against.

We're not the only ones who've been busy; there's lots of creative work being produced in support of Net Neutrality. Check out this techno remix of Sen. Stevens' recent speech, a slew of new clips on the videos page and other artistic output at the blog.

We need more creativity like this to call attention to what the telcos are trying to get away with -- but eventually it all boils down to what the Senate does. So don't forget to check out the map, call your Senators, and encourage your friends/readers to do the same. With your help, we can match the millions of dollars spent by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth with millions of citizens speaking up for Internet freedom.

Tim Karr,

RRC#2 Deadline TODAY at 11:59pm EST

You know those PBS fundraising drives the stations run twice a year? The hosts get increasingly desperate towards the end of the drive. They get pushy and sweaty and start offering totebags. Especially when their goal is $5,000,000 and they've raised about $500.

I feel their pain. This carnival has been up for a month and I've gotten two -- only two -- submissions. If this were a pledge drive, I'd be worried we couldn't continue to support Cookie Monster's habit.

So in the style of a PBS announcer:

Please support your local blog carnival. Act now and donate an outdoor swinging wingding recipe to the Retro Recipe Challenge. For your donation, you'll receive a lovely email of thanks and have your creation prominently featured in our programming. Your contribution does make a difference.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back from NY

Breakfast on the run (balanced on my leg) from Amy's Bread.

It's been quite a week. We visited the Empire State Building, American Girl Place, Build-a-Bear, Cole Haan, Toys R Us, the Liberty Science Center (sailing past the Statue of Liberty on the way), the NY Hall of Science, the old World's Fair grounds, Coney Island, the Bronx Zoo, and MoMA with plenty of trips to the nearby Central Park. (We also visited Ground Zero, which I had not been to since September 2001, when I covered it for the magazine I worked for at that time. )

We got back about four hours ago and have spent those last 240 minutes doing laundry and packing for our impending move before collapsing on the couch. We are exhausted.

I ordered pizza for dinner, as I am not a masochist (though the laundry and packing suggest otherwise).
Normal, recipe-testing posts should resume on Thursday. In the meantime, here's a rundown of some of the great food we ate on our trip:

Homemade Granola at EJ’s Lunchonette -- Third Ave. at 73rd St.

Banana Walnut pancakes and ginger scones at the Boerum Hill Food Company--
143 Smith St., Brooklyn

Scallion pancakes, twice cooked pork, and some sort of house special with pork and orange peel that I can’t remember the name of (Shredded Pork with Szechuan Pickled Vegetables?) at Pig Heaven -- 1540 Second Ave. near 80th St.

Margherita pizza with fresh basil at Totonno’s -- 1544 Second Avenue betweeen 80th and 81st St.

Hot dogs with sweet onions or kraut and spicy mustard at Nathan's on the Coney Island boardwalk

A very filling caramel rice pudding at Rice to Riches -- 37 Spring St. between Mott and Mulberry St

The world's best cannolis at Veniero's --342 East 11th St. between First and Second Aves. (the cafe service leaves something to be desired)

Curried chicken salad, "brunette" praline spread, and sweet waffles at Le Pain Quotidien -- 77th Street between Second and Third Aves.

Zucchini muffins and iced coffee at Amy's Bread -- 672 Ninth Avenue between 46th & 47th Sts.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #2 Deadline in 48 Hours (or so)!

We're down to the wire folks! Get in your entries for the RRC#2 -- theme: outdoor wingdings -- by this Wednesday at 11:59pm EST!!!

Full details here; email your submissions and/or questions to


Now for your inspiration and viewing pleasure, some retro food art courtesy of MoMA:

Still Life #30 by Tom Wesselman, 1963

Floor Cake by Claes Oldenburg, 1962

Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1961

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Zucchini Parmesan Bread

Last night, I dreamt of zucchini.

I'm trying not to focus on a Freudian interpretation of that, hoping instead that my subconscious was just thinking about this Zucchini Parmesan bread.

I pulled this together last Friday in an attempt to use up some farmers' market items before we left for NY. It's based on this recipe, but I went off the map and changed it quite a bit. (Incidentally, when one modifies a recipe, when does it stop being an adaptation and becomes one's own invention?)

This is a very moist and thin bread -- in fact, I hesitate to use the word bread because it is so moist, but I'm hard pressed to think of another word that fits better.

It's also delicious: the zucchini provides heft and moisture but really, it's the fresh basil and parmesan that shine here. We devoured it in one sitting, fighting over the last piece. It reminds me of something I could have eaten at my Italian grandmother's table.

Zucchini Parmesan Bread

1/2 cup Bisquick
1 tbsp fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp oregano (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

Combine all ingredients except zucchini and parmesan, and mix well. Add zucchini and parm, stiring to combine. Pour mixture into pan and bake until set, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cut into pie wedges. Serve hot or cold. Yields 8 slices.

Grade: A

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

(Why a fast? Go here.)

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Reminder: Retro Recipe Challenge #2 Deadline

I'm in New York with the family (we just came back from dinner at Pig Heaven and was it good) so posts will be far and few this week and next, especially with tomorrow's Virtual Fast.

Having said that, the deadline for RRC#2 (theme: outdoor swinging wingdings) is about one week away -- all entries should be in by Wednesday, July 12 at 11:59p EST.

If you're looking for inspiration, check out Recipes of the Damned, chock-full of "interesting" creations like Vegatable Salad Loaf and Spaghetti and Cabbage with Cheese Sauce. (Sadly, the Deep Fried Field Rat recipe was published in 1999 and is therefore disqualified from the challenge.) For more retro recipe ideas, click here.

Good luck and happy cooking! (And for those in the States, have a wonderful Independence Day!)

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