Category Archives: Food

State Fair Checklist

  • Ask boss for every day of the State Fair off. Check.
  • Get tickets and coupon books (that’s right, two books). Check.
  • Make grid of which kinds of dogs are at the Pet Pavilion on which days. Check.
  • Add what days there are bunnies at the bunny barn to the grid. Check.
  • Check where this year’s Park & Ride lots are situated. Check.
  • Install the State Fair app on my phone. Check.
  • Look at all this year’s new food with YA. Check.
  • Extra points for writing some of the new foods on the grid. Check.
  • Go over possible schedule with YA. Repeatedly. Check.
  • Purchase some more individual wet wipes. Check.
  • Dig the turtle purse out of the attic (it’s the perfect size for the Fair). Check.
  • Start a “take with” pile (purse, sunglasses, wipes, tickets, coupons, address labels, couple of band aids, couple of ibuprofen, collapsible food container). Check.
  • Watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  Check.
  • Do laundry so the clothes you like best are ready on Thursday. Check.
  • Get gas for the car (probably not needed, but what the heck). Check.

Except for getting some cash on Thursday morning, I think I’m ready!

What’s the last occasion you “prepped” for?

Bean Freak

Husband and I lived in southern Indiana for a year just after our son was born while Husband finished his psychology internship.  It was much warmer than Winnipeg, and we were introduced to many garden plants I had never seen before. Salsify?  Who knew what it was and that you could grow it in your garden?  The real surprise for me was shell out beans. Those are  beans like navy beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and all sorts of other beans that I had never seen grown in gardens and that you harvest fresh, not dried.  We became hooked on them.

We didn’t  grow them in our garden until the last 10 years or so due to limited space, when Husband discovered metal bean poles, and we have been growing them ever since. Growing vertically really saves space. This year we are growing Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans and Vermont Cranberry beans.  The Hidatsa beans are traditional beans grown by one of the three tribes husband works for on the Rez. They are big, plumpsters that parboil and freeze well.  I love them in soup and chili.

The problem with beans like this is that they are addictive.  You want more and more. You can read about this phenomenon in this recent New Yorker article:

Most pole bean cultivars of this type need 95-110 days to mature after they germinate. We don’t have that long of a growing season., and we will buy dried beans that we can’t grow here. Recently, I was searching beans on line and found  the source listed in the New Yorker article for dozens of exotic and long season dried beans. You could get the traditional French beans for cassoulet (Tarbais beans), flageolet beans, and every exotic South American and Caribbean bean that is currently produced. Husband had to stop me (But we have two ducks in freezer. Let’s whip up some cassoulet!)  He reminded me that we didn’t have to order pounds of beans at that moment, and that perhaps we should see what our harvest will be this fall. I agreed, but I am secretly planning an order.

What have you been obsessed with? What is your favorite bean recipe?

A very Special Dinner

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Imagine that a very special person will be visiting you soon. Maybe this is someone you were once close to, but life sent you along different paths. This is a person—or possibly a couple or a family—that you haven’t seen in a long time. Now they will become a guest at your home. You aren’t worried about the reunion. You will hug and have tons of news and memories to share. Conversation won’t be a problem!

Here is your challenge: you have to decide what meal you will prepare. You want to put out the best meal you can. You wouldn’t consider a catered meal, even if you could order a terrific restaurant meal. That just wouldn’t be personal enough. You want the meal to reflect your respect and affection for your old friend.

I used to have such a meal. The main recipe was given to me by a fascinating man I met only once. Dan Brennan was a novelist and professional tennis player who lived most of his life in Minneapolis. Before the US joined the Allies in World War Two, Dan traveled to England to volunteer as a fighter pilot for the RAF. Amazingly, he survived the war. He told me he married “a girl from the English countryside.” She was the source of the recipe for this pheasant dumpling pie.

That recipe looks a bit odd to me now. It includes a wonderful made-from-scratch white sauce with several store-bought ingredients (including Pillsbury biscuit dough from a tube, frozen broccoli from a box and a pie crust from a box mix). When I was a hunter the dish inevitably starred pheasant meat, but over the years I began substituting chicken thigh meat, and both were wonderful.

I always cooked this dish in a heavy crockery casserole dish. At the bottom of the pie was broccoli, carrots, onion and the meat. Everything floated in a white sauce made from pheasant stock, whipping cream, pimiento, flour and several whole peppercorns. (I came to regard the whole peppercorns as the secret ingredient that made the sauce work.) Chunks of raw biscuit dough were placed on top, then a double-thick pie crust went over everything. After baking, the chunks of dough puffed up and became flavorful dumplings. When I was learning to cook I saw nothing strange about the recipe. Although the cook was incompetent, the pheasant dumpling pie was never less than spectacular.

The dish was perfect for our special guests. It was something nobody could order at a restaurant. Pheasants have been prominent throughout my life, starting when I was three, so I never found a more appropriate dish to serve guests in my home. We entertained frequently. Half-jokingly, we referred to our little bungalow as Grooms Rooms, as if we were in the hospitality business. We even had that name on a signboard on the front of the house. Pheasant dumpling pie was the signature dish at Grooms Rooms.

The rest of the meal varied little over the years. We served our pheasant pie with baguettes of French bread, a good light red wine and wild rice cooked with nuts and bits of onion. You might wonder: shouldn’t poultry be served with a white wine? Yes, usually. But pheasant is not exactly a delicate meat. A light red seemed better to us. A frequent desert was pecan pie with cinnamon ice cream.

What would you serve for a really special guest?





Too Hot to Handle

I didn’t start cooking until I moved into my first apartment. My mom doesn’t like to cook and when I became a vegetarian at 16, the few things she could cook became out of bounds for me.  She had 2 cookbooks all the time I was growing up, Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookie Book.  So I wasn’t surprised when she gave me a copy of Joy when I set up my first kitchen.  It wasn’t too useful for a beginning vegetarian so it was joined quickly by Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Laurel’s Kitchen.

I didn’t cook with too many exotic ingredients back then – nothing even remotely “different” made its way into my mom’s kitchen so I didn’t have any experience with the out-of-the-ordinary. I don’t remember the first time I cooked with a jalapeno or any other hot pepper, but it’s been at least 30+ years and now they are a staple at our house.

So you would think that I know better by now about handling hot peppers. Just one Mucho Nacho (a type of jalapeno).  I cut the seeds and inner veins out, thinking about the capsicum all the while.  Then I apparently turned my brain off, because after I dumped the peppers into the pan, I just kept working instead of washing my hands.  Within 10 minutes I had touched my lips in two places, licked a finger and gotten the juice under my thumbnail as well.  Paper towel soaked in milk helped the lips, held the thumb in the milk for 5 minutes and then drank the rest.  Aaaahhhhh.

What lesson do you wish you would learn? Or took you too long to learn?

 And does anybody need a hot pepper or two on Sunday???

White or Brown?

Husband and I recently drove to Denver for his father’s  funeral.  Denver is a 10 hour drive for us, so we stopped in Newcastle, WY as a half-way point there and back. Newcastle is an old mining town, and still is dominated by extraction industries.  It has some beautiful scenery, and lots of wildlife. Mule deer wander around on Main Street. There are elk nearby.

We ate at a pizza and steak house the first night we stayed in Newcastle. I ordered a sirloin with mashed potatoes. The waitress asked me “white or brown?” I was a little puzzled by the question, but assumed that she was referring to the type of potato I wanted my mashed potatoes made from. It made me think that I was dining in a pretty fancy establishment that took such care with mashed potatoes. I  said “white”.  Imagine my surprise when my meal arrived with a nice steak and a lofty pile of mashed potatoes smothered in gloppy white gravy. White and brown in this restaurant refer to gravy, not potato varieties! I want only butter on my mashed potatoes, and I left the potatoes untouched and concentrated on my steak.

I talked with relatives at the funeral about my gravy debacle, and the only one who had experience with “white or brown” was a step-nephew  by marriage from Texas.  Something was lost in translation for me in Newcastle, but now that I know what the code means, I can order mashed potatoes with confidence!

When have things been lost in translation for you? How do you like your mashed potatoes? How do you make mashed potatoes?

Reaping the Bounty. Now What?

I travel just enough to get some airline miles but usually I don’t hit that sweet spot where you can turn them in for airline tickets. Instead I have magazines.  Lots of magazines – most of them food related (imagine that).  At this time of year, food magazines are always filled with recipes using the bounty of summer gardens.  And just in time too!  I’ve harvested all my basil (10 jars of pesto) and the tomatoes have just started to turn.  The first handful of grape tomatoes didn’t make it into the house but the two Romas went into a pasta and green bean salad yesterday.  I’m guessing in about a week or so, I’ll be overloaded with tomatoes and trying as many of this month’s magazine recipes as possible.  I think this one will be first:

Tomato Salad w/ Charred Corn & Peppers

4 ears of corn, shucked
1 c. roasted red peppers (save liquid)
2 T. olive oil
2 T plus 2 tsp. wine vinegar
1 ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp chopped oregano
2 ¼ lbs. tomatoes
½ tsp salt
½ c. queso fresco

  1. Grill the corn on medium heat until nicely charred, 8-12 minutes
  2. Cut the kernals off the cobs and combine with red peppers, 2 tsp of the pepper liquid, oil, 2 T vinegar, 1 tsp Aleppo pepper and the oregano.
  3. Slice the tomatoes, tossing with the remaining salt and tsp vinegar. Arrange on a plate and cover with the corn mixture, queso fresco and the remaining ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper.

Note: If you don’t have Aleppo pepper you can make a good substitute using 4 parts paprika and 1 part cayenne.

What would you like to do with an overload of tomatoes this year?

Stuff Rant

It was a gorgeous day for the zoo. Lots of young families.  Lots of strollers.  Big strollers.  Double-wide strollers.  Holding lots of stuff.  I guess the world has changed but when Baby and I went out and about, I used a narrow umbrella stroller, put a couple of diapers and a ziplock w/ some wipes in my purse, filled up a sippy cup and off we went.

Apparently these days you need considerably more to venture out into the world: multiples sippy cups (and strollers have sippy cup holders built in now), bags of animal crackers, apple slices, cookies, cheerios, large containers of wipes, massive numbers of diapers, toys, towels, changes of clothing for the little ones. I’m sure there is more needed, but this is just what I saw with my own eyes.  And that’s just the stuff for the kids. Parents need bottles and cup holders and snacks as well.

On a busy day, all these strollers full of stuff take up a LOT of room at places like the zoo. I wholeheartedly encourage  families with young kids to enjoy places like the zoo, but do they really need so much STUFF?

What kind of of stuff do you need for an outing?