Tag Archives: cooking

My Love/Hate Relationship With Giada DeLaurentiis

My mother hated cooking. She appreciated fresh, seasonal foods. She eschewed pre-packaged fair. But having to take the time to put together a meal? Not her favorite pastime.

And young, budding feminist that I was? I thought I hated cooking, too.

But I loved food. I loved a fine meal at a restaurant. I went to Paris in my twenties and like Julia Child, I fell in love with the fresh, yummy, out of this world produce, fresh cheese, steaming baguettes,  perfectly cooked beef, aromatic chicken. I’d go on, but I’m trying to stick to my New Year’s resolution.

It wasn’t until my late thirties that I actually started trying to recreate the wonderful food I’ve eaten abroad or at fine restaurants. My best teachers should have been my grandmothers. But when they were alive I’d sit in the kitchen keeping them company while they cooked but didn’t really pay much attention to what they were doing. I was above domestic pursuits.

Now they’re gone. And I needed teachers for my new found interest in creating fine cuisine. So I turned to television. The Food Network. The Cooking Channel. Ina Garten. Ellie Krieger. Nigella Lawson. Even Paula Deen. (in moderation, of course)

And Giada DeLaurentiis.

I love Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. Love it. From the first time I watched one of Giada’s shows, I was drawn in. And when I’d try her recipes and they came off without a hitch? I was hooked.

Slowly, she’d start to annoy me. Shaking her hair over the food. Every tightly fitted top showcasing her perfect, perky breasts. Clever camera work sneaking shots her of cleavage. And the way she pronounced: mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano.

Oh sure, she was born in Italy. But she moved to the states when she was 7. And every other word out of her mouth is as American as can be.

It annoys me. And I have no idea why.

Try saying “And then you top it with some fresh mooootsarayla and a little bit of basil” with a straight face. It just sounds weird.

I love her recipes. I love the tips and tricks I learn from her. I hate her hair shaking-cleavage showing-Italian accent for certain words-television persona.

I confess. I both love and hate Giada.

(Please excuse me while I duck for cover. I think hear the chef-haters police at the door.)

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Filed under Completely Random, Observations

Trading Spaces With One Of My Neighbors

Today I’m trading spaces with one of my neighbors! As a part of a new meme that Amy over at The Never-True Tales is starting, neighbors in Blog World are trading spaces, sprucing up each other’s blogs with some fresh material (in the eyes of the new neighbors, anyway). We’re slapping up a fresh coat of paint, moving the furniture around – just shaking things up a bit. I decided to give it a try since it falls in line with the posts (here and here) I started a few months ago about moving into my neighborhood. Sounds like fun – so on with the show!

The Kitchen Witch is a blog I read regularly. Here’s a secret….lean in…closer….closer….good…..she’s not really as witchy as she pretends she is. But don’t tell her I told you. Bookmark her, read her posts and then you decide. I love, love, love her posts. She’s funny. She’s thoughtful. She’s real. She’s the friend you can count on when you’re feeling crabby and you need a lift (thanks, TKW!) She’s the friend you can count on for amazing recipes for every occasion. You can also count on her to bravely tell of failed recipes, rough moments in parenting, or tough life experiences. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t preach. And she’s amazingly supportive of her family and friends. She’s shared a post with us today that I know you’ll enjoy. So sit back, enjoy the fresh coat of paint. And welcome, TKW, to my home!

Orange Potato Salad and Other Family Oddities

Admit it, you have some strange food skeletons clanking in your closet. Every family does. Maybe it’s white trash food, or scrapple, or liverwurst on toast at midnight. But somewhere in your past, guarantee ya, you’ve got some embarrassing food lurking in the corner.
 
I do, too. And for some reason I’m not just embarrassed about the weird food I’ve eaten–I’m embarrassed about the weird food my family’s eaten as well. There’s some strange guilt-by-association thing going on there. If I see my dad eating slices of raw salted potato for a snack (which he does) shame just seeps outta me. Which makes zero sense–it’s not my freakshow snack, it’s my father’s.
 
Food and family are so closely intertwined it’s scary. Take Thanksgiving, for example. The food that ends up on your holiday table says a lot about you and yours. Illustration: cornbread stuffing. If you eat cornbread stuffing on a certain day in November, I’m betting there’s Southern knocking around somewhere in your family tree. Creamed pearl onions? Yankee. Green jello mold with shredded carrots and pineapple in it? Hello, Midwest.
Now some of those family foods are stamps of pride; my Grandmother’s fried chicken was legendary. It was so crisp, so perfectly Grandma-seasoned, so juicy…the day she died, fried chicken died too. I’ve never eaten it since, because she owned fried chicken. I can’t look at a chicken without mourning her loss and knowing that never, not ever, will I eat fried chicken that perfect again. Ditto for Aunt Lee’s Chocolate Cake. Maybe in your case it’s your Nonna’s Marinara or your mother’s stuffed cabbage. Those are the family gems, the heirlooms you guard passionately because they are your history.
 
But just like that one cousin you had with the buck teeth and the donkey laugh and the ears that didn’t match, some food appeared on your family’s guest list that made you squirm. And darned if you aren’t as ashamed of that as you are proud of Dad’s bbq sauce. Because those oddities say something about your family too, and they’re not always fun to examine.
 
I recall dying of embarrassment in 6th grade when a playmate and I walked into the kitchen just as my father was whipping up his favorite little afternoon refresher, a tall glass of saurkraut juice mixed with V-8. “YARGH,” was all the horrified kid could sputter, eyes a-buggin. I wanted to vaporize into thin air.
 
In fact, my German father had plenty of little doozies in his arsenal. The strips of raw turnip, salted to death, which he snacked on during football games. The wedges of watermelon he salted, peppered, then ate. The hideous Braunschweiger roll he smeared on crackers. The bologna he sneaked from the package, rolled up and popped in his mouth. The peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. Embarrassments, all of them.
 
My mother’s diet was pretty plebian in comparison, but she did make her famous potato salad, which she toted to every potluck and party of my youth. The Orange Potato Salad. I remember one 4th of July when a kid next to me in the buffet line said, “Who the hell brought orange potato salad?” And I replied, “No idea.”
 
Orange Potato Salad was one of my mother’s “experiments.” Experiments happened when my mother, missing an ingredient or two from a recipe (in the middle of a North Dakota winter), decided to improvise rather than drag two young children to the supermarket in 8-inch drifts of white misery.
 
In the case of the potato salad, my mother was out of vinegar and had a scant cup only of mayonnaise. Normally, she tossed the cooked potatoes with a drizzle of vinegar and let them cool before dressing. The hot potatoes absorbed the tang and salt of the vinegar and resulted in some spunky salad, let me tell you.
 
But she didn’t have any vinegar, so she went shopping in the refrigerator and came up with Kraft French Dressing (yeah, the neon orange kind). She had about 3 tablespoons of it left in the bottle, so she tossed the hot potatoes with that, let them cool, and then tossed in some celery, onion, seasonings and that scant cup of mayonnaise. Orange Potato Salad was born.
 
Crazy thing is, as unsightly as that crayola-hued salad looks, people love it. It’s different and un-boring (and admit it, most potato salad is boring). People started asking my mother to bring Orange Potato Salad to parties and she was happy to oblige. “Ah! You brought the Orange Potato Salad!” neighbors would announce, and she would beam.
I guess it could be worse–at least Orange Potato Salad was a crowd pleaser. Mrs. Mondry always brought oyster stew and nobody wanted that, so I shouldn’t complain.
 
This Father’s Day, I had my parents and the K family over for a barbecue. Mom called earlier in the week to ask what she could bring. “Orange Potato Salad,” I said. Of course. Orange Potato Salad may be an embarrassment, but it’s our embarrassment and what’s a family without a few quirks?

Mom’s Orange Potato Salad
serves 6-8
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
3 tablespoons Kraft French Dressing
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 scant cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
salt and pepper to taste
Boil potatoes about 15 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Drain potatoes and cool until warm enough to handle. Peel potatoes, chunk them and toss with French dressing while still warm. Cool.
Whisk mayonnaise, pickle relish, mustard seed, salt and pepper. Add celery and onion to potatoes, then toss with mayonnaise mixture. Make a few hours in advance to allow flavors to blend, and re-taste for salt/pepper before serving. If salad seems dry, add more mayonnaise.
Serve to non-judgemental people who love you.

*** Giveaway alert!*** If you post a comment/confession below, you will be eligible to win a 1-year subscrption to Everyday Food Magazine, courtesy of TKW! I really like this magazine because the recipes are simple, fresh and delicious. And maybe, just maybe, you might not be stuck eating cereal for dinner again!

You can find me, Jane, over at The Kitchen Witch’s site today! Pop on over for one of my favorite (and TKW’s, as I found out) blog posts!

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Mmmm, Mmmm Memory: Chocolate No Bake Cookies

Feminists don’t cook. At least, that’s what I was taught. As a child, I viewed cooking as dreaded “woman’s work,” something that HAD to be done and the only fools that enjoyed it were the retro, weak females without a brain. Ok, so that’s a little strong but I was taking cues from my mother.

Then I took Home Economics at school. We had an awesome home ec room with about 10 mini-kitchen stations.

Home_Ec_Room_madisonville_high_scho

No, it didn’t really look like that. I’m not THAT old. Just a cool picture from 1939.

This is closer to what it looked like:

home ec room

Each station had it’s own stove/oven, sink, cabinets, chopping block, etc. Because the rest of the world was catching up to my mother’s view, home ec was on its way out of the curriculum. There were only about 10 of us in the class. So we each got our own mini kitchen. And after our first cooking lesson – Chocolate No Bake Cookies – I was hooked! Secretly, very secretly, I was in HEAVEN!

I found this on Photobucket:

nobake recipe

This is exactly the recipe I use.

This is what they’ll look like once you make them:

nobake cookies

Oh, and you’re going to need this, too:

glass-milk

Yum!

(The inspiration for this post comes from Country-Fried Mama at http://countryfriedmama.com/ . Please visit. And tell her Jane sent you!)

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Filed under Recipe

The Not-So-Secret Ingredient

One of my hobbies is cooking. I wish it were something I appreciated and enjoyed when my grandmothers were alive because they each had some amazing recipes, techniques and food stories I would so enjoy learning about today. I watch cooking shows. I sit down and just read cookbooks. Friends and family seem to enjoy what I prepare. And I receive requests for certain specialties.

One of my specialties is my cranberry relish. My family requests it at every holiday. My sister and I love it when there are leftovers. We sit together at the kitchen table, each with a spoon, and share the bowl, all on its own.

My mother doesn’t enjoy cooking. She’s not a bad cook – it just isn’t her thing. Every time she asks me to share the recipe (which I know she’ll never make)  I say, “No. It’s a family secret.” Of course, I’m teasing. She argues that she IS family. She tries to get it from other family members. And she spends time guessing what is in it. She gets all of the ingredients right, except for one. Now I’ve shared this recipe with other members of the family; all people I know will make it themselves. I’ve even given it to fundraiser cookbooks for our school and church. It’s not a very complicated recipe. Just very, very yummy. My mother has watched me make it before. She’s even seen the “secret” ingredient as I’ve chopped it up and put it in the bowl. But, still, she pretends to forget what it is and we do the dance all over again when we’re eating our turkey or ham and the bowl gets passed around and is practically licked clean.

The funny thing about this recipe is it used to be much more complicated. But one particular holiday I was visiting my sister and things were crazy. Between the two of us we had 4 children running around under the age of 5. Our husbands were out doing guy things. We had so many people coming over and I decided to take a major short cut. I would use canned whole cranberry sauce (horrors!) instead of starting from scratch. That particular year there were no leftovers. Everyone claimed it was the best batch ever. I’ve never gone back.

 ginger3

1. Open up a can of whole cranberry sauce. Pour into bowl.

2. Add to the bowl: 1 finely chopped thin skinned orange (the whole orange, including the skin. If your skin is a little thick just add less skin), 1 cup golden raisins…..and for the not-so-secret-ingredient….2-3 T. finely chopped crystallized ginger (to taste — I like more rather than less).

3. Mix well and refrigerate for 24 hours. This step is very important as it allows all the flavors to meld.

4. Enjoy! We serve this all year round with turkey, ham, roast chicken and pork.

(The inspiration for this post came from this wonderful blog: http://countryfriedmama.com/)

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Filed under Holiday, Recipe