Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ReBlog: 50's Culinary Theme Party

Taste Test From Hell: We Cooked a Bunch of Gross Recipes From the '50s

Well this is a pleasant surprise!

Remember when I told you about the fantastic mid-century cookoff I attended a few weeks back? Well our good friends over at Jezebel blogged the event and rated all of the recipes. Guess what!?! Pineapple Upside Down Cake (or PUD-C as Lindy West dubbed it) was a huge hit!

Here's a lead-in to the post:

Few things are more luridly delightful than midcentury food porn—fishy Jell-Os, mayonnaise frosting, all canned everything, foods ground up and then moulded into the shapes of other foods. If you've ever flipped through your grandma's post-war Betty Crocker cookbook, then you know what I'm grimacing about. These are recipes from leaner times, grounded in thriftiness and imperishability and resourcefulness. And, yes, Hot Dog Aspic Ambrosia is fun to gawk at in 2014, but what would happen...if you actually ate the food? Some friends and I decided to find out. 

Read the whole post here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Recipe: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Hi Friends,

Last night I attended a truly creative theme party at a friend's house. Inspired by this Buzz Feed article, the marvelous blog The Mid-Century Menu, and an abundance of mid-century cook books we gathered together to share some of the most creative and often disgusting mid-century recipes we could find. We had such "delicacies" as Tuna Pie, SPAM sandwiches, savory Pillsbury casserole, Gelatin Chicken Salad, a Frosted Ribbon Loaf and a host of other tastes.

Mercifully, there were a few people who also brought excellent desserts - Grammy's Oreo Dessert, and Orange Delight Pie were among the favorites. For my part, after torturing the party goers with chicken in gelatin, I wanted to bring something that would have been at home on a mid-century table, attractive to look at, and tasty. That's how I settled on this Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It was marvelous. Here's the recipe:

You'll need a 10" oven-safe skillet. I used a relatively new non-stick Calphalon pan, but if you want that nice cake shape you'd get from a cake pan you might want to use a well seasoned cast iron pan with steep, deep sides.
I started to beat the egg whites for this recipe by hand and after 10 min of constant whisking almost lost the use of my arm for the night. Use a standing mixer if you have one. Your arms will thank you.
A basic flour sifter.
I also needed 4 separate mixing bowls. Not because the recipe calls for it but because I'm a spaz. Make sure you have an extra few on hand just in case.

Time: about 1 hour
Makes: 1 10" round cake
Feeds: 8-12 depending on slice sizes.

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 (20 ounce) can sliced pineapple, or two small cans sliced pineapples
A jar of maraschino cherries

Pour off the pineapple juice into a glass and drink that because it's amazing. You could probably pour some of the rum below into that and add a cherry, too. Your baking won't suffer, and it might alleviate the pain of all the egg white beating you're about to do.

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup sifted cake flour (yes, sift it FIRST then measure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon of spiced rum (optional)
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar (optional)

Note we're using cake flour, not all-purpose flour. Cake flour has a different protein content.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

2. In your 10" skillet, melt 1/2 cup butter or margarine over very low heat. Remove from heat, and sprinkle brown sugar evenly over pan. Arrange pineapple slices to cover bottom of skillet. Pull the stems from the cherries and arrange them however you like around the pineapple; set aside.

3. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Yes we know you already sifted the cake flour, sift it again with the other ingredients.

4. Here's the part where you work. Separate the egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls. Set the yolks aside for now. In a large bowl, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. This is going to take you a little longer than your arm might be comfortable with. If you have a mixer use it.

5. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks at high speed until very thick and yellow. They should have a lighter yellow color when you finish than when you started. I didn't even try to do this by hand. I cranked the mixer to full blast and it still took a bit.

6. With a wire whisk or rubber scraper, using an over-and-under motion, gently fold egg yolks and flour mixture into whites until blended. Fold in 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine and almond extract. Spread batter evenly over pineapple in skillet.

7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until surface springs back when gently pressed with fingertip. Loosen the edges of the cake with table knife. Cool the cake for 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate.

8. When you turn the cake over you may lose a pineapple or two, and some of the brown sugar topping might stick to the pan. Replace that as you like it on the cake top. Sprinkle the rum over the cooling cake, and finish with a dusting with confectioner's sugar. You may want to use your sifter for the confectioners sugar to prevent clumping.

This is a variation on this recipe I found online. I added the rum after reading several other variations and sizing up my audience. I recommend using a dark spiced rum because it has a higher sugar content. Some other ingredients you might consider playing with: nutmeg, cinnamon, crushed almond, other dried fruits in the topping.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recipe: Beef Stew

I’m obsessed with this beef stew recipe. It’s kind of a work in progress but here’s the gist of it. This is great for work week lunches, but if you want a fancy dinner I’d go with the first link below.

It’s a combination of these three recipes:

Total time: 1.5h
Hands on: 45min

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds trimmed beef flatiron steak or chuck, cut into pieces (I buy “Beef For Stew” at Whole Foods)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (meh – or two, or three…)
One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine (Yep, that’s a whole bottle)
1 small can tomato paste (I use the kind where the only ingredient is tomatoes. No sugar. No salt.)
2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig (or a few pinches of dried is fine)
2 large yams or sweet potatoes – whatever kind you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 lb bacon cut into 1 inch pieces
15 cremini mushrooms (I get small ones and just half them)
Small 1lb bag of baby carrots (I leave them whole and just dump them straight from the bag)
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Weird Tools you might need to check if you have
“large enameled cast-iron casserole” – this basically just means any big pot with a lid that is made to go in the oven as well as on the stove top – so no plastic or rubber. Mine is not enamel and it’s fine.

1.       Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the meat in the casserole in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 minutes. Add ½ of the chopped onion and all of the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine, tomato paste, bay leaves and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil (I find that there’s never enough pepper and salt), stirring to dissolve any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

2.       Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the stew for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is flavorful.

3.       With the yams, olive oil, honey, lemon juice. Prepare this recipe and put it in the oven right next to the stew pot. Should only take a few minutes. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/honey-roasted-sweet-potatoes-recipe/index.html

4.       In a large skillet, fry the bacon until it’s half-cooked. Leave the bacon fat in the pan. Add the rest of the onion, mushrooms and carrots and cover. Cook until the onion and bacon are fully cooked. About 4-10 minutes. Drain bacon fat from the pan.

5.       When the stew and yams are finished combine everything in the stew pot, dish it up, garnish with parsley if you’re fancy, and enjoy!

Recipe Test: Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free Blueberry Scones

It's time for this week's installment of Baking Weird Shit with Lyndsey: Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free Blueberry Scones. Hockey pucks of the world are fearing for their job security. 

Keys to this recipe are: blanched almond flour, coconut flour, raw honey and fresh blueberries. If you can't get your hands on these then I'd wait. 

And hey! They look relatively normal! The other good news? They're delicious. 

My rating? Four out of five stars ****

As with most things in this food category, you'll be a lot happier if you can recognize that something tastes good without tasting exactly like the thing it's mimicking. These were amazing, and better still when served hot with a giant dollop of butter. Link to the recipe below. 


Mozzarella Macaroni and Cheese For Two

Threw this together the other night based on a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I love mac and cheese but most recipes (including Mark's) are too big for two people, and cheddar is a lot more fattening than mozzarella. I'm pretty sure that the proportions below of butter-milk-flour are not ideal, but it still came out delicious. Fiddle around with the sauce a little if you like, but this works pretty well as is. This recipe took 45 min or so and made two large (adult) servings.

1 Cup grated Mozzarella
1/4 Cup shredded Parmesan
1/4 Cup shredded Romano
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cups Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta
Spoonful of flour (regular dining spoon)
1 Tablespoon butter
Breadcrumbs (Italian seasoned)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pasta water in a pot with a little salt. Cook the pasta as advised on the box.

While the pasta is progressing, put the milk in a small saucepan with the bay leaf and turn on medium low. Cook it until small bubbles start to form where the milk touches the metal. When you tip the pan the bubbles will stick to the pan underneath. there shouldn't be any steam or boiling.

Remove the milk from heat and transfer to a small bowl or Pyrex measuring pitcher. Take out the bay leaf and discard.

Manage the pasta as necessary now - it may be al dente at this point. If it is, drain it, cool it off with some cold water and pour it into a baking dish.

Tricky Part: Get a small wire whisk in one hand and get your flour ready. Set the milk nearby. Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium low until foamy, then drop the flour into the melted butter and quickly stir it with the whisk until smooth. As soon as the flour/butter mixture browns add a little of the milk, stir until smooth and pasty, then add more milk. Repeat until all the milk is gone.

Add the cheese and stir until melted and smooth. (Mark Bittman's recipe has you separate the cheeses - I didn't and it worked out fine) Pour the sauce over your pasta, and mix it in. Top with a little more Parmesan and a thin layer of breadcrumbs.

Put the mac and cheese in the oven for 15 minutes and enjoy!

Some ideas you might want to try:

Blue Mac and Cheese - top with blue cheese crumbles instead of shredded Parmesan. it won't take much to have a big impact on the flavor.

Apple Gruyère - omit the Parmesan and Romano, replace with Gruyère. Thinly slice 1/4 of a Granny Smith apple and cut into smaller pieces. Sprinkle on top with the breadcrumbs before placing in the oven.

Other Mix-ins: jalapeños, bacon, pimentos, white onion

Things to do with kids in Friday Harbor, WA

Cattle Point Lighthouse
This is on the grassy side of the island and you can hike over to the lighthouse pretty easily if you have an energetic kid. If he needs to be carried though I'd skip the lighthouse part and just go play at the beach in this area. There are bunnies in this part of the island too - especially in the evenings. 

San Juan Island National Park
One of our nation's newest National Parks!! This was a State Park for a long time and it made the upgrade list a year ago or so to National Park and got itself a little face lift in the process. You should go check it out. It's on the west side of the island where you're most likely to see whales. http://www.nps.gov/sajh/index.htm

The Whale Museum
Speaking of whales. Go check this out - it's pretty cool and you can walk there from downtown. There's neat gross stuff like a giant whale brain embalmed in a jar and other things your kid will think are the coolest things ever.

American Camp/British Camp/Pig War
There's some history to know about the island. It was disputed territory between the US and The Queen back in the day. There was a pig. Lives were lost. Things were stolen. Dozens of hours were spent fighting. Dozens. And the military camps are still on the island. It's kind of cool to read up on the history and then go see the camps. They're also State Parks. Go. Learn. Feed ducks at the park. Wear a coat.

Fourth of July Beach
This is out by the lighthouse on South Beach and if you like sea glass it's the best beach to find sea glass on the island. At one time there were rum runners in Canada during prohibition and when they would get caught they'd dump the goods overboard and the glass washed up on Fourth of July beach. As the name suggests, this is also a good place watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Crow's Nest Coffee :) Mary and her husband Jon own this place and one of them is always always there. They brew Vivaci from Seattle and it's easily the best on the rock. Their breakfast sandwiches and burritos are AMAZE BALLS.
http://crowsnestcoffee.com/ - ok so they need a dev team. We love them anyway.

RESTAURANTS!!! (You can also ask Mary & Jon for recommendations)
 The Cask & Schooner is damn good and kid friendly and right there in town. If it looks too good to be true don't be frightened off. It's perfect. The food is delish and trendy and the wine list is killer and the prices won't kill anyone. Do that if you're tired and all you can do is stumble out of your hotel and beg to be fed.

If you want a fancy date night dinner you can always go out to Roche Harbor and you'll get a great meal and a beautiful view.

The Back Door Kitchen is heavily recommended as some of the best food on the Island. I don't know if they're open in winter. Check into that.

Other places worth the wait and the price:
Duck Soup Inn - middle of the island may not be open in winter
The Place - down on the ferry landing
The Market Chef - also highly recommended

Chill (cheaper) food:
Mi Casita Mexican Food
The Rumor mill
Herbs Tavern - classic old timer salty dog joint
The Doctor's Office - Ice Cream Shop :)

OK - I can keep going but I should NOT do that. Post in the comments if you have questions.

My Favorite Things To Do in New Orleans

Ok here’s my list of favorite things to do in New Orleans. I created this for a friend who will be traveling there next week. This city has a big piece of my tourist heart. I don't claim to be a NOLA insider, but these are the things I do when I visit. I scribbled this in no time at work so there are quite a few things missing. I'd love for you to point them out in the comments. 

Bourbon Street – Go watch fraternity boys binge drink on Bourbon Street for like 15 minutes and then leave. (I know there are other things to do here but the booze/vomit smell generally deters me from discovering what they are. I come back when sauced enough not to care.)

Royal Street – Walk from Bourbon over to Royal Street and mosey in that direction for a while. There are lots of artists and antique shops on this street that are fun to look into. I bought a watercolor from a guy on the sidewalk here that I love (above). There are good deals if you’re looking for art, there are also some fine pieces by talented artists. A variety at your disposal.

LaLaurie’s house – If you keep walking down Royal you’ll eventually come to an area that has more residential homes and vacation properties. In this neighborhood at 1140 Royal you can see the home of this woman  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphine_LaLaurie who is something of a New Orleans ghost legend and one of the character’s on American Horror Story this season if you’re into that sort of thing. I usually visit NO at Halloween so this is right up my alley. 

Mansion Tours – Right next to LaLaurie’s house is a place that gives mansion tours. I wasn’t able to get in when I last Fall, but the tours are supposed to be excellent. I’d be curious if you checked it out how that went.

Jackson Square – If you head back down Royal the way you came, turn on either St Ann or St Peter St toward the canal (away from Bourbon). Go down about a block and you’ll see Jackson Square which sits in front of St Louis Cathedral. There’s history about this place. I don’t k now what it is. But it’s probably interesting to read. The square is usually overrun with artists and street performers and on a nice day it’s a great place to people watch.

Café Du Monde – walk through Jackson square down toward the canal and look across the street – you’ll see Café Du Monde. They’re famous for their beignets (doughnuts). Good stuff. Their coffee isn’t half bad either. That’s a good place to sit and watch the circus at Jackson Square. The spectacle of traffic will make you laugh as well. http://www.cafedumonde.com/ 

Magazine Street – great shopping. Cute houses.

Garden District Tour –There are dozens of these just pick one that sounds good. If a reader has been on a particularly good one I'd like to know about it. 

Marie Laveau’s House of VooDoo – for all your spell casting needs. It’s on bourbon street. You can find things there like shrunken heads and idols to help you sleep better at night or get rich. All fun.

The Frenchman – this neighborhood has great jazz music but it’s getting more of a party vibe over the years.  You could check that out.

Yes there’s Starbucks.

This is one of the last Creole Family-owned (Creole owned) restaurants in the French Quarter. The owner is an incredibly kind gentleman who personally built us a “tasting” menu when I was last there. All of the food – ALL OF IT – was insanely good. 


This is a great restaurant owned by Emeril Lagasse whom my dear father once referred to as “that sellout”. I thought his food was actually quite delicious. And I enjoyed the restaurant decor. Food was a bit on the expensive side but good. Food portions are not huge. There’s a good chance you’ll have to wait so make your reservation and go down to the bar on the corner. It's cute and the bartenders are friendly.