Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Did you think I'd forget giving Dani her annual digital Thanksgiving Day turkey?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deep Shopping

It has been a long winter.  I know officially it's the third day of spring but it's hard for me believe that when we, in the Kansas City area, are facing the third snow storm in the month of March.  Third.  In 24 days.  Makes you ponder.

However it seems I'm not the only one who has been pondering the meaning of life lately.

wafer thin

You gotta love a meat cutter who slips a Monty Python reference into his work.  You rock Meat Cutter Man!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cheese Coins

I am a recovering junk food junkie.  I love a good vending machine.  For the record, I love the crunchy Cheetos not the puffy, styrofoam peanut version and yes, I find Chester Cheetos really skeezy.  Almond Joy over Mounds.  Early Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies (whoever took over that company screwed up that cookie that's for damn sure)  For less than five bucks I could get a fix of salty and sweet in one quick insertion of change.  The advent of paper bill slots only made it worse.  I was often weak but back in the day you didn't feel like you were getting ripped off.  Today you're lucky if you pay less than a buck for a bag of 15 M&Ms.


But I am getting better.  Now I just try and make my own snacks.  So it made me happy to see a recipe for cheese crackers in the latest edition of Cook's Country magazine.

cook's country cheese coins

OK I know they call them cheese coins but when you're fighting for attention in the world of internet recipes and tv audiences you don't just want to throw out there another cheese cracker recipe.  So I thought I'd give them a shot.  Plus it gave me just another excuse to buy cheese ( a worse addiction than junk food).  Pretty straight forward recipe, combine cheese, flour, seasonings and butter, mix, roll, chill, slice and bake.  I will warn you about two things.  You need to roll and slice your coins as evenly as possible because of the second thing, careful baking.

burned coin

You need to watch these crackers the same way you watch pinenuts when you toast them and bacon when it's frying because they will burn if you are easily distracted by some cat in a ridiculous hat on your Ipad.

Even if you watch your crackers carefully while in the oven, if you've cut them unevenly the thin side will burn and the thick side will be slightly undercooked and nobody wants that.


So I finally get the hang of the right slice thickness and bake time and the house is smelling Cheese Heaven.  But the coin tag was cracking me up.  So what if I wanted to give these as gifts.  What would be a fun packaging idea?  First I wanted to roll them in wax paper.  I cut open a paper towel tube and shoved the wax paper in side.  Then I carefully placed my coins inside and taped up the wax paper.


Then I got on my computer and designed some cheese cracker coin rolls and put the wax encased crackers inside.  Take that Martha Stewart!


I know I'd laugh if I got a couple of these tubes of cheese coins. However do NOT take them to the coin machine at your local bank unless there's a teller there you really like and will help you clean out the crumbs from the gears of the machine.


Oh yeah, a few months from now if you see this packaging idea on Etsy or in an Edible Gift Giving book, remember you saw it here first.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Against the Herd


We're having a pretty quiet weekend here in Kansas City.  Action Jackson is enjoying a bit of sunshine on the deck while hooked up to his long line.  As you can see, there's no snow.  Not on Jackson, not on  my parsley plant in the background, not on the deck.  This is not to say there wasn't snow expected.

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 3.16.45 PM

This is a screen snag from a local weatherman's blog for yesterday.  Funny, when you read it today, it seems fairly calm and reasonable.  However yesterday was a storm of a different color.  I was working at Small Spare Job Number Two yesterday.  We had the tv on and you would have thought we were about to experience a major snow-i-cane.  Weather advisory crawlers with loud beeping alerts would appear at the top of the screen every 15 minutes, brightly lit in DANGER RED.  Counties were listed that were in the danger zone.  Dire warnings, cats sleeping dogs kinda stuff.  So at this level you're least....6 - 8 inches expected....right? With strong blowing winds, ice and freezing conditions. No.  1 to 3.  This really makes me sad.  I'm an east coast girl.  The only people who panic at 1 - 3 inches of snow are the federal workers in DC.  I thought midwesterners were heartier than that.  Maybe they used to be.  Or maybe they are being conditioned to panic.  Across the street from the office of Spare Job Number Two is a grocery store.  It just so happened that I needed some things and popped over  to shop.  No sooner was I in the store two minutes when the speaker system was announcing snow storm specials.  Really?  Was there a connection?  Were the local weather folks playing up a minor storm to shepherd the public herd to spend their dollars stocking up on milk, toilet paper, windshield wiper fluid and snow shovels?

I, by my nature, am a cynical, suspicious person.  But can you blame me?


I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC.  The Washington Post was our hometown newspaper.  Turns out Nixon was a crook, in a hella big way.

Reagan wasn't much better.

Bill got his cigar caught in Monica's honey jar.

Even in Kansas City things might not always appear to be what they seem.  Ever hear of video news releases?  It was a practice going back at least to the first administration of Clinton of federal agencies producing video segments that look like something your local news station might produce.  It might be a report on childhood obesity. It might be about Medicare.  It would be supplied to news agencies however it was hardly ever revealed that the government was the source of the video. Under the George W. Bush administrations it was a widespread practice to put a more positive spin and help push their agendas.  Smaller market news agencies, in an effort to be more profitable,were already cutting back on staff and reporters, it only made economic sense to fill their many news hours with ready made policy pieces.  Of course it was kinda ethically disgusting but what the hey, they've got shareholders to think about.  So would it be so outrageous to believe a relationship exists between a local tv station and a local chain of grocery stores?

Yes it does appear that it at least exists in the website filler category but at least you know who's pimping who.  Which brings me back to the snow storm they went on and on about yesterday.  We, the Kansas City area, did not get snow.  We did not get ice.  As far as I can tell, we didn't get a damn drop of moisture.  However I am guessing that local grocery stores saw a generous bump in sales. 

don't be part of the herd

America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and sometimes the Herd of the Easily Spooked.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dreaming in the Cold

I'm kinda digging this from Williams Sonoma.  It would make me  feel great to look at that in my kitchen while it was bitter cold and snowing outside.
wall garden

However...not sure it's tall enough to keep the boy from using it as an indoor potty post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hello friends.  Happy New Year to everyone.  I don't know about you but 2012 was a bit of a bitch to yours truly.  The company I had worked for the past 15 years, a family business that was over 90 years old, shuttered their doors this past year.  I got to experience the joys of filing for unemployment for the first time in my life.  It is not something I want to experience again....but that being said at least it was something to help me survive until I found a new job.  Which I did but three months was enough of uncertainty and fear for my personal health and the health of my monetary savings to keep me ever so grateful for my new job.  It's a good company with many challenges to keep me busy.

While I was experiencing my own work drought, the Midwest was and still is experiencing a brutal drought whose roots can be found in the spring-like winter of 2011/2012.  This does not bode well for food prices in the coming year of 2013.  Not only has there been a serious lack of rain, we had an oppressively hot summer.  Lots of dead grass, withered evergreens and cracking foundations.  Not to mention thirsty birds.

thirsty birds

It was not an easy summer for anyone.  While I had no paying work, I did try and keep myself busy.  I used some leftover masonry materials that my old company was unloading and built myself a new pad for my grill.

newbbq pad

Anyone who has ever laid a brick pathway or tried to install a brick driveway knows it's not as easy as it looks.  Especially when you have to deal with roots.


Lots and lots of roots.  Did I also mention that my three months of unemployment coincided exactly with the three hottest months of a record breaking hot summer?  However once you get started, you've got to keep going to finish.  Looks pretty awesome and can't wait for spring and firing up the grill.

In addition to the masonry projects I gave myself, I had a yardsale.  I've had yardsales before but usually there's enough time in between to forget the vows that I'll never have another again.  I love getting rid of crap I don't use or need anymore but the ratio of time spent vs. value gained by selling is frustrating to say the least.  All in all, it's easier just to haul it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and take a tax deduction.  It also confirms that a salesman I will never be.

yardsale monitor

Unless it was kisses from Jackson.   Jackson is very popular with....everyone.  Probably the one who enjoyed my unemployment the most.  Lots of walks, lots of attention and only occasionally home alone.

I wish I could say I did a lot of cooking.  Not so much.  Cooking (and blogging about cooking) was a luxury I cut way back on for fear of a much longer period of unemployment.  But once I started working again and getting into the rhythm of life with work, cooking followed.  My company had a chili cookoff amongst the employees.  Despite using Cook's Illustrated best chili recipe, I got not one vote.  Does this bother me?  Not really, chili is not my strong suit and we all know that food so spicy that you can't eat it (one of the competitors) is REALLY not my thing, I'm good with the results.  I'd make that chili again.  I'd also make the cheesecake brownies and pumpkin black bean stew that I also made for my new co-workers because you know I do love an audience for some of the things I make.

Which brings us to the new year.  Here in KC we had snow on the last day of the year and the first of the new year.  I've had a lovely four days off to putter around my tiny house, cleaning, cooking and reading the huge amounts of cookbooks I get from our wonderful library system.  I'm making sure the winter birds have plenty to eat to keep them strong through the bitter cold.


I'm also trying to come up with a new New Year's tradition to bring me some better luck than the typical black eyed peas.  Don't get me wrong, I love black eyed peas but in the luck department, they just seem a little...whimpy.  I decided to go in another direction completely.  I decided to go Indian.

gulab jamun1

Gulab Jamun.  I saw this recipe on Foodgawker for gulab jamun and remembered how much I enjoyed this dessert at an Indian restaurant here in Kansas City.  Could I pull these off at home?  The trickiest part of making this dish is getting the fry temperature of the oil right.  Too hot and you'll burn them, too cool and they won't cook all the way through.  Test your oil with little bits of dough, making sure the test dough stays at the bottom of the cooking oil and then floats to the top to continue cooking.

gulab jamun2

You're looking for golden brown but not too dark.  Then you soak them in a wonderful syrup which the balls act like sponges.  They are best when served immediately.

Hopefully my big balls of luck will counteract any possible bad luck in the year of 2013!

gulab jamun3

So tell me, what are your traditions for the new year and how was your 2012?  Good or happy to say goodbye to?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2012

Hope everyone all had a peaceful and full Thanksgiving.

(still not allowed to give Dani a live turkey)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Really Old School Barbecue

Barbecue. Kansas City, for whatever else it is, prides itself as the barbecue capitol of the world. There's the American Royal with it's KC Masterpiece Invitational where only winners of qualified Grand National events can participate. There's the Oklahoma Joe's Open Contest with 500 teams competing. There's even a Junior World Series of Barbecue contest. Kansas City has it's own distinctive style of sauce and even pioneered those lovely little bitlets known as burnt ends. However if you're an observant Jew who keeps kosher, Kansas City barbecue is a no go. That was...until this past weekend.

That's right, the tribes pitched their tents and broke out the kosher smokers for Kansas City's first ever Kosher BBQ contest.  Unlike regular bbq contests, all the meat, sauce ingredients, rubs, charcoal, smokers, and utensils were provided for and handed out under close supervision which made for a fairly even playing field.

tiny smokers

Although next year they might want to rethink the size of their smokers.  Each team got two but really when you're smoking beef brisket and beef ribs size does matter.  Why can't the teams use their own smokers?  Because to satisfy the requirements of producing kosher cooking, the implements that touch the food are strictly regulated.  Let's just say it's safer for the rabbis to control the chain of custody to supply the smokers themselves.  Other than that, everything else was standard bbq contest routines.  I was invited to chronicle one of the teams, the only team of women (and one husband) known as The Queens of Que.  All bbq contest novices but anchored by a secret brisket pit boss weapon.   How would the ladies do?

up all night

While they might be novices they do know that it's important to stay up all night and tend to the fires to keep your meat going low and slow.  Wouldn't you know it, our heat wave finally broke and the nights recently were a little crisp.  Thank goodness for fleece binkies and Ipads.  The night quickly passed into the morning and time to box up their first entry, chicken.

surgeons at work

The surgeon husband on the team certainly came in handy for precisely slicing the chicken.

Kosher BBQ Chicken

Do you know how hard it was to look and not touch?  Very hard but with braggin' rights on the line all chicken made it to the judges safely nestled in it's little styrofoam clamshell.

Turning in chicken

Next up for slicing, beef ribs.  I have to say that I'm an equal opportunity rib sucker.  Pork, beef AND lamb ribs are all worthy of my attention.  Beef ribs also have the added benefit of giving you the illusion of sitting in King Henry the Fifth's court or Fred Flintstone's car when it falls over from the weight of those massive beef bones.  I know pork ribs get all the glory, especially baby backs but you're missing out if you ignore a hearty plate of beef ribs.

finger licking good

These folks concur.  It was actually hilarious watching the Queens trying to artfully fit enough beef ribs  in the clamshell for the judges. At some point you just have to jam it closed and utter those well worn words of chefs around the is what it is...and move on.

Now it's time for the Precious, the Brisket.  

Bring on the brisket

Cooking a decent brisket is a hallmark of Jewish cooking.  There are some serious bragging rights on the line and frankly Team Queen had been participating in a healthy dose of brisket trash talking.  They could talk it but could they walk it?

thing of ugly beauty

It wasn't pretty when it came out of it's resting place but it's not a beauty contest, it's a moist and flavorful contest and Pit Boss Carla had her finger strongly monitoring the pulse of this thing of ugly beauty.  They also had a bit of good luck stop by their booth as they were trying to decide how to slice their brisket.

Mark Man of Meat

Mark Fishman, a former butcher who advised the best piece of meat to use, what fat to slice off and exactly where to cut.  Free expert advice is always appreciated.

heaven in a styrofoam box

I don't know if they were required to include the burnt ends but really you can't go wrong throwing those babies in there.

High Four

One last huzzah for luck and the Precious toddled off to the judge's table.  Now unlike the ribs and the chicken, there was plenty of brisket left over to knosh on.


But you had to be quick like a bunny because that brisket was the bomb.  We quickly inhaled the remnants of the good pieces of brisket.  The inferior piece of brisket was sliced because it would be a sin to waste it.

Secret Kosher Sauce

Of course the kick-ass secret kosher sauce helped.

first Place brisket

It was at this point that I boldly announced via Facebook that this was the winning brisket entry.  It helped to walk up and down the row of teams slicing their dry sad briskets.  You just don't mess with a woman and her brisket.  Unfortunately we had at least another hour and half of waiting for the results of the judging.


No prize money at stake but lots of nice trophies.  Although.....

the golden calf?

...I'm a little leery of getting too close to the Golden Calves for fear of wayward bolts of lightning.  I mean we are going totally Old Testament here.  Finally the judging results are announced.  Chicken results pass without the Queens name being called.  Next beef ribs.  Whoa, the Queens take third place and smile exactly like fools who spent all night worrying over an R2D2 smoker and whole lotta kosher meat.  Still one category to go.  Third place....not the Queens.  Second place...Team STP (Smoked to Perfection).  At this point I start pounding on Queen arms in excitement because Team STP took first place in the chicken and ribs and if they took second in brisket that left....TEAM QUEEN for the BRISKET win!!!!

Pit Boss

I love it when I'm right.

Queens of Que Trophies

Here's your KC Queens of Que Kosher BBQ Team
John Goldberg, Carla Grant, Rita Cortes and Marla Brockman.


It certainly looked like a good time was had by all.  I know all the folks who keep kosher looked like they had a good time getting to celebrate Kansas City BBQ....their way.  See you next year.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Economy of Scale

So late Saturday morning I get a text.

Craig: Ribs? Tonight?
Me:  Sure!

One of the reasons why Craig and I get along so famously is we both appreciate a certain economy of language.  And like most conversations, it's all about the subtext.  Here's a translation of what was really said.

Craig: Ribs? Tonight? = Girrlll, you better come over here tonight and help me eat up some of that big pile of meat you enabled me to buy at Restaurant Depot and use that beautiful new grill I got a great deal on.
Me:  Sure! =  Oh you know I'm going to be there because I have recipes to try out and if I don't find more guinea pigs taste testers I'm going to weigh 400 lbs from eating all this food.

So I had a few hours before the Meat-Fest began to whip up something delicious to pair up with Craig's wonderful pork ribs.  I wanted something rich and hearty so I went with Virginia Willis's Gratin Dauphinois which was inspired by a version she learned at Anne Willan's La Vareene.  Great recipe, again out of her wonderful Bon Appetit, Y'All.  But I also had a stack of library books that I've been enjoying and noticed a quick dessert from the cookbook The Farm.

Ian Knauer was a former food editor at the late lamented Gourmet.  The Farm is a collection of recipes that Ian shares from his Pennsylvania family farm.  Beautiful photos from Hirsheimer & Hamilton and recipes that run the gamut from quick and simple to whole roast pig.  The recipe that caught my eye was his Magic Peach Cobbler.

cut peach

Magic Peach Cobbler by Ian Knauer from the cookbook The Farm, rustic recipes for a year of incredible food
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk
3 medium peaches

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle. 

2. Place butter in a 3-quart baking dish, and put it in the oven for 5 minutes, or until melted. Remove the dish from the oven, tilting the dish to evenly coat the bottom with melted butter. 

3. Whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder and salt. Whisk in the milk. Pour the batter evenly over the butter in the baking dish. Do not stir. 

4. Cut the peaches into wedges and place them in the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the top of the peaches. Bake the cobbler until it is set and golden on top, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack. Serve the cobbler warm or at room temperature. 

What's great about this recipe is that with the exception of the peaches, I had everything in the fridge or the pantry.  The one of the problems I had was figuring out which of my dishes was a 3 quart dish.

Peach Cobbler

The other was figuring out how many small Missouri drought peaches equals 3 regular peaches.  So sad drought peaches.

Peach Cobbler 2

So delicious with tender peaches melding into sweet cobbler and crunchy sugar topping.  Bonus was that it wasn't too heavy after our meat-fest and rich potatoes.

Craig: Cobbler?  Winner.

Me:  Excellent!