Monday, October 29, 2012

Simple Marinara

Lazy Mary by Lou Monte
I have this Italian music CD that I like to listen to when I'm making my marinara.  In truth, I like to listen to it alot more often than when I make marinara!  When people have popped in while I'm on one of my random Italian music days I always get a curious look - a look that says something like, "You seriously listen to this stuff on purpose?"  And the answer would be, "Yes, I do!"  I discovered my affinity for the genre after I purchased a CD for a spaghetti feed that the youth group at our church were  having.  It was going to be the background music.  I wanted to sample it before we used it for the dinner just to make sure that it evoked the mood we were looking for.  It passed!  I liked it's "mood" so well it has become a regular mood enhancer for myself!  Lazy Mary is just a plain, fun, and happy song!  And making marinara is a happy occasion!

I always envisioned this long and drawn out process when it came to making my own marinara.  Did I really want to stand by the stove, stirring, all day?  I tell you that I did not.

Then I watched Giada make some marinara on her Everyday Italian show on the Food Network and it didn't seem as labor intensive as I thought it would be.  As a matter of fact it looked pretty easy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ghostly Cupcakes

Spooky by Classics IV
These funky little ghosts will certainly want to groove around the top of their cupcake pedestals to this great song by the Classics IV.  I know that I certainly have a hard time resisting it's beat!  The intro has one of those instantly recognizable hooks and gets you grooving from the get-go!  Another great recording of this song is by the Atlanta Rhythm Section - which just happens to be made up of former members of the Classics IV!  If you're not familiar with this song, you should change that right now!  

There have been some spooky things going on in my neighborhood lately.  Like this gnarly pumpkin that grew THROUGH a neighbor's chain link fence!
I watched all summer, fascinated, as their vines grew up and over the fence and the pumpkins hung down.  They grew to full size - yet never snapped their hold on the vine with their weight!  And then the vines disappeared - and this one was left with it's place securely fastened!  Wild!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Poblano Pepper Spread

Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
This song just gets me excited!  You can't help but catch his energy and want to do something - ANYTHING - you just want to move!  And today's recipe is one that has me wanting to eat it on something - ANYTHING - I just have to eat it!  The possibilities are for you to explore!  Of course, it's kind of fun when you get to play with fire a bit.  Nothing scary, mind you - or illegal.  Just good home cookin'!

My daughter and her family were home for a visit recently and, while fixing dinner one night, I realized that I needed some sort of spread to go on the pretzel rolls we had purchased at Costco.  I puzzled about it while prepping the rest of dinner and got to thinking about what I had available.  I remembered some poblano peppers we had picked up at the Farmers Market earlier that day.  I was thinking that I might want to try my hand at making chile rellenos but I wondered if I could use them for a spread instead.

The mind-path that took me to the ending result went fairly quickly - kind of like this:  Pretzels and chile peppers? ~ Oh yeah, some of the kids at culinary school made jalapeño-filled pretzels and they were delicious! ~ So the poblanos would work as well! ~ I could roast them on the stovetop ~ That would be quick ~ And I have a half a brick of cream cheese and a tub of mascarpone cheese as well. ~ The rolls are kind of bulky. ~  But if I slice them into discs and toasted them they would be great as "chips." ~ Could it be that simple?  ~ I really think that'll work!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homemade Grape Juice

Simple Gifts by Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Krauss
Once in awhile I'm able to find a song that so closely resembles my "feelings" about a recipe, it's almost as if the melody is part of the ingredients or, rather, in the air of the aromatic swirls the recipe creates. This is true of today's song.  The simple presentation of this version of the song is heart achingly stirring - like my childhood memories of making juice with my family.  And the clarity of Alison Krauss' voice mirrors the beautiful pristine nature of this juice.  A recipe so simple but with such exquisite flavor and clarity!  A recipe that has been in my life as long as I've been alive - and one which I've been happy to be a part of making since I was old enough to stand to a sink or tub and pull grapes from their stem.  A recipe I'm so happy to share with you today - my simple gift to you.

 When people think of grapes they automatically think of California.  But few people know that the region around Lake Erie is also a big grape-growing region - namely Concord grapes.  I grew up near this region and remember well the heady scent of ripe grapes as it saturated the air in late summer and early fall.  Intoxicating! 

My parents used to get bushels of those Concord grapes and bring them home for us to make juice.  We'd pile batches into the sink or in large tubs and fill with water to rinse them.  We'd then set to the task of pulling the grapes from the stems.  Now, some might think this a tedious chore.  But I argue that it is not.  I guess it could be boring - but we sang songs or listened to music as we performed the task.  Sometimes someone would read out loud from a book while we plucked away.  Of course, if left unattended, children can find other ways of keeping themselves entertained whilst pulling grapes off of the stems.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spiced Sugar Cookies with Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

A Change Would Do You Good by Sheryl Crow
Today we're making little changes.  Little changes that bring about a big impact.  How does the adage go - "A change is as good as a rest."  It's as true with food as it is in life.  Sheryl's kicky tune has you contemplating where you can maybe make some changes.  It's the end of summer.  Sigh! There are all sorts of changes going on around us, of which we have no control.  We might as well harness the spirit of the seasons and celebrate changes in a happy way - like with these spiced up Sugar Cookies!

Although I'm sad to see summer end, I reluctantly have to admit how much I adore the autumn time.  The colors of the leaves are warming and the smells of the fallen leaves mingled with the scent of fireplaces being fired up produce all sorts of inside hugs.  If only it didn't have to herald the upcoming cold and dreary months of winter!  

I've really been wanting to make some pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies.  But I didn't want them to be the usual.  I was hankering for a change.  How could I get the ingredients to reflect the season?  I figured I could add spices to the dough, but I also knew that that would tinge the color of the dough.  I had to come to terms with the idea of a "not-so-bright" looking dough.  I get hung up on stuff like this sometimes.  It annoys me to no end.  I finally decided I was OK with the flecked and beige-ish cookie since the frosting would be the focal point anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Foil Dinners

I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)  by Louis Prima & Phil Harris
Girlfriends.  Gal Pals.  Outside of my wonderful family, they are my richest blessings.  I have been a lucky woman indeed!  No matter where we've lived, I've been able to find friends who serve as good examples in all things - thriftiness, home enrichment, creativity, personal growth, charity, community involvement - they "show" me the way I should - and want - to be.  Our time in Washington is no exception.  I am fortunate to call some amazing women "friend."  And today's post is about them.  While sitting around the fire on the beach, I asked which song about friends and friendship I should use for the post.  They suggested James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend" - which, I agree, would be a good one.  But, as I've thought about it since, I've realized that maybe they don't realize just how much I idolize each of them - and how I want to be just like them.

Recently, my friend, Lara, took our little group of friends to her beach house on the Oregon coast.   We've gone to the coast with her before.  We plan crafts, trips to nearby Cannon Beach to visit the cute boutique shops, and we enjoy wonderful food!  But this time I asked if they wouldn't mind helping me with a post for this blog while on our little getaway.  They're all good sports and said "Yes!"  Lara, the queen of great ideas, is the one that came up with the wonderful idea of having a meal on the beach!  

We were all excited about the idea of foil dinners.  We could assemble them at the house and tote them down to the beach along with the fixings for the fire.  Each person talked about what they'd like to include and we had a pretty good idea where we were heading.  On the way to the beach is a Trader Joe's where we stopped and each grabbed a basket and went a little crazy!  Not just for food for the foil dinners, but, you see - these ladies are ladies of extraordinary taste in snacks.  I never eat as well as when I'm in their company!

Monday, October 8, 2012

German's Chocolate Cake

Lovesong by The Cure
I always associate this song with my son-in-law.  I usually associate any song of the 80s British Punk era with him, but this song, in particular, because it was one of the songs he chose for the wedding CD when he married my oldest daughter.  I was not familiar with the song until then and, as I was compiling the CD for them, I had a listen.  Tears came to my eyes as I listened to the sweetness of the lyrics.  Every mother prays for their daughter to find a guy who feels this way about her.  If you aren't familiar with the song or the lyrics, you should be!  And you can read the lyrics here.  It's my son-in-law's birthday today and he and my daughter and their children are coming for a visit.  When I asked what kind of cake (or pie) he'd like to have to celebrate his day, he requested a German Chocolate Cake.  It's my first time making it from scratch.  Read on!

Do you ever look back in your life and try to place where you were when things were happening in other people's lives?  I do.

In 1976, when I was 16, my father took the family on a big trip to see the celebrations of the nation's 200th birthday.  In Washington, D.C., I remember standing on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial one evening.  The Potomac was high that year and I marveled at the power of that river as it rushed by me, only a few feet away.  Dad liked to meander, taking the back roads often.  We saw many of the beauties of the nation on that trip and the symbols of our freedom as well.  It was a very good summer.

Little did I know, or even think to comprehend, that clear on the other side of the country, in Rio Vista, California, a lovely woman and her kind and gentle husband were expecting a son.  A boy whom they would raise to be an amazing young man - who would some day marry the beautiful daughter that I would be giving birth to in six short years.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Applesauce Cookies with Walnut Streusel

Apple of My Eye by Dolores O'Riordan
This recipe today is purely for my husband.  He loves Applesauce Cookies.  And I rarely make them.  And I wanted to see if I could come up with a recipe that would change that.  And I did!  He is the apple of MY eye, although, after 34 years of marriage, he still thinks I'm "just saying that."  He believes that if Sting were to come to our front door and ask me to run away with him, I would without even looking back!  That's simply not true!  Now, David Gilmour . . .  maybe!  Just kidding!  Just kidding!  I adore my husband!  And Dolores O"Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, obviously feels the same way about someone.  Her ethereal voice holds me captive, intrigued to see what nuance she will use to deliver the next line.  If you haven't sampled any of her solo work, do so now - as you sample these cookies, of course!

So why don't I make Applesauce Cookies for my man more often?  Ummm - maybe because there's not a shred of chocolate anywhere near them?  That would be a good start.  Also, the ones I've had are just sort of, indistinctive.  They sit there just a mound of pale nothingness.  They are soft - all soft - and I would like even a tiny bit of texture - a slight bit of crunch - in my cookies.  They aren't showy at all, but neither are shortbread cookies, and I love them!  Yep - I think it's a textural thing.  Gotta have just a little texture.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fry Sauce

Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning) by Vertical Horizon
A song about leaving someone you love - or them leaving you.  Or leaving some"thing" you love - which is the case today.  When we moved from Utah 10 years ago I was sad to leave my favorite purveyor of Fry Sauce.  Not that there isn't Fry Sauce here in Washington - just not THAT Fry Sauce - the best Fry Sauce I'd ever had - at Best Burger on Riverdale Road in Ogden.  Sigh!  Don't mock me for going all sentimental until you've tried it!  And I'm going to help you out but save you the cost of the trip to Ogden.  I think I've come up with a very close, if not perfect, rendition of my own.

I remember the first Fry Sauce I ever had.  I had flown to Utah to share Christmas with my boyfriend (who would become my fiancé before I returned home.)  He took me to a fast food place called Arctic Circle and asked if I wanted some Fry Sauce.  I was from Heinz territory, mind you, and the thought of putting anything other than ketchup on my fries was baffling to me.  Yet I dipped . . . . and dipped . . . . and dipped!  And the dipping in Fry Sauce has continued ever since!  

Not all Fry Sauces are created equal, I learned.  Some are watery and weak attempts.  

Then one day, while living in Ogden, Utah, I heard about Best Burger.  People raved about the burgers.  "You gotta try the burgers at Best Burger!!!," they'd command.  So I obeyed.  They were moan-inducing, drip-down-your-hands juicy burgers that rocked my world.  But wait!  Their fries were equally amazing!  I asked myself, "Could this be the Eden of Burgerdom???"