Category: cooking

Sour cream-y potato salad.

Potato salad with sour cream!

Potato salad is something that goes with cookouts and barbecues like coleslaw goes with pulled pork. Seemingly, you can’t have burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob & the like without some fresh potato salad.

Being that we bought a brand new grill late last month & had our first cookout, I thought it was time to make something summery.

Potato salad (like macaroni or egg) is so incredibly simple you really don’t even need a recipe- all you need is the basic ingredients. I threw this one together because I didn’t have a lot of mayonnaise, but I had a brand new container of sour cream. However if you’re not familiar with making it, it might seem complex or even daunting, so I thought I’d share my recipe.

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Grandma Dotty’s recipes.

Grandma Dotty's recipes.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Jay’s grandma Dotty passed away last week. We’ve been incredibly sad, obviously. She was a wonderful woman. I consider myself lucky to have known her & spent time with her. I’m only sorry that it was a quick 10 almost 11 years & not longer. Yes, I’m sad. I felt the same way about her I did my own grandmother. We are all sad, heartbroken in fact. It still feels like a shock. But if there’s any small bright side to this sadness, it’s that we’ve enjoyed looking through old photos and reminiscing with family.

One of the things I was given of Dotty’s was this baking book. It was stuffed with cut-out recipes & handwritten recipes, as well as torn-out magazine clippings for Norge ranges & a manual/warranty for a Frigidaire appliance (the ’59 series electric range Super model, S-9-59). Knowing my love for all things vintage/retro, there should be no surprise that I have been reading these every night before bed.

Grandma Dotty's mother's book, All About Home Baking third edition 1935

The book was published in 1933, but this edition is the third edition from 1935, which makes me think it was actually originally Dotty’s mother Sadie’s book, not hers. Dotty’s mother Sadie Geller came in here in 1912 from Galicia, Poland (which is now a part of Ukraine but was at one point Austria). She married Joseph Mandel, who was born in Russia, when she came here to New York and they had five children: Ida, Sarah, Dorothy, Milton and Libby. Dorothy is our grandma Dotty.

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American Woman, listen what I say.

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If you knew my grandmother Agnes, you knew she was many things. She had many talents. And you could call her many things: funny, smart, feisty, kind, the life of the party, bossy, stubborn… a redhead. But two words that would not be among those above would be ‘cook’ or ‘baker.’ When I was growing up, my grandma was into fashion, not baking cookies. My grandfather, her husband Clarence (a.k.a. Butch), was the chef in the house, but he passed away when I was very small & had been sick for a few years. So sadly, I never got to know him at his best, or see him in action in the kitchen. My mother remembers times when my grandmother was at work & my grandfather was home, and he would make them dinner, and how she loved it. That’s not to say Nana never cooked anything- she did. She had her little tricks & signature dishes: namely a delicious stuffing, macaroni salad with shrimp, roast chicken, and meatloaf. And she loved to entertain.

But my Gramps was the one who came from a family of eaters and cooks. You know that saying “People either eat to live or live to eat”? Well, Nana’s family, when she was growing up, more or less “ate to live” whereas my Gramps’ family “lived to eat.” Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother loved to eat too. But she wasn’t much into the actual making of it. In restaurants or when someone else cooked, sure. But not so much when it was up to her to cook it. She’d just as soon have a sandwich or egg salad, and she’d be just as happy. On the other hand, my grandpa loved him some good food! His family liked to eat, and there were cooks & bakers aplenty. So therefore he learned from his mother to cook and he enjoyed it, and I think I got that “foodie” (horrible word- pardon me) part of me from his side of the family. I mentioned his mother; well Midge (her nickname) was a half German/half Irish woman with a big heart, a kind soul, and a talent for the domestic arts. She crocheted beautiful things, too, and was an expert at tatting, so it wasn’t just a kitchen-related talent. But that’s where she shined.

When my grandmother first went to their house for dinner, she was amazed. Her Irish mother, mother of seven and herself the daughter of an immigrant Irish housekeeper (who was really a single mother before that term was even a term), never cooked like that. She did the best she could to feed her seven children during the Depression, and she wasn’t exactly interested in that stuff anyway. Julia Child she was not. But my grandpa’s mother Midge was in a better financial situation, really did love to cook, and made all kinds of things from scratch. Cornstarch pudding, Sauerbraten, potato dumplings… you name it, it was on the table at one point or another. My mother says she can still close her eyes and remember the smell that wafted into the hallway of her grandparent’s apartment building when she used to go there for dinner as a child. She said she could smell her grandmother’s cooking right away, as soon as they walked in. In some ways, perhaps, my grandfather’s overabundant love of food, namely sweets, was a contributing factor to him being a diabetic as well.

And let me just say before I go on… I definitely inherited the clothes-horse/fashionista gene from my Nana’s side as well as that food-lover gene.

Anyway, the last Christmas Eve before my Nana passed away, Christmas 2010, in the middle of eating some appetizers she took me aside and said, “OH! I found something, and I want to give it to you.” She motioned for me to follow her into the dining room. She opened up the right-hand drawer of her buffet and took out a book, and handed it to me. It was a 1947 copy of The American Woman’s Cook Book by Ruth Berolzheimer, in almost perfect condition (in a clear plastic red-trimmed book cover- true to form for my Nana, but I took it off for the photos).

I’d vaguely heard of the author, mainly from just searching recipes on the internet, but I wasn’t fully familiar with the book. I was really excited, though, because of a few reasons. One, it was vintage, and I love any and all things vintage… especially the fact that it was a COOKBOOK, which is the second reason why I loved it. She was happy that I liked it, and that I’d use it. I don’t know how often she’d cracked it open in the last 60-something years, but it looked pretty new. She told me to look through it and make her something delicious, and winked.

It saddens me I’ll never have a moment like that again.

It saddens me that I’ll never get a surprise gift from her again, that if I do find a vintage something-or-other of hers, it won’t be her that hands it to me. But as melancholy as those thoughts are, that’s another reason why I love things like this. Not only was it my grandma’s, but it’s a piece of history. And not just her history… but American history.

Ruth Berolzheimer died in 1965 after a long and illustrious career as a “cooking and child welfare expert” (according to her obituary). She was for years the director of the Culinary Arts Institute, and the editor/author of a number of books.

The The American Woman’s Cookbook was originally published in 1939 (or perhaps 1938?) by the directors of the College of Home Economics of Cornell University, under the auspices of the Delineator Institute – and it seems that it was descended from an earlier Delineator Cookbook. The Delineator Cookbook in turn was derived from a fashion magazine called The Delineator, which was originally produced in the 1870’s by the Butterick sewing pattern company.

The book contains over 10,000 recipes, and went to many printings of many editions. From the outset was considered a trustworthy and comprehensive resource, and I was delighted to find that for those of us not lucky enough to own a real copy, there is an online version available via the Internet Archive.

- The Old Foodie

I hadn’t actually thought much about it after that until Jay was browsing One Kings Lane a few weeks back and there was a copy from the 1940’s that had been sold for $50.00. I said, “Holy crap I have that book!” and then I realized mine, too, must have been from the 1940’s as well. This week though, fueled by a Mad Men marathon & a yen for all things nostalgic, I finally sat down and looked through the book in detail. It’s amazing, really. First of all, the meals that were eaten back then are so incredibly different than the ones we eat now. When was the last time someone you knew made a cold chicken salad in a mold? Yes, that’s right, chicken plus gelatin. Chilled. In a mold. Like a creamy chicken Jello. Yum. Or when was the last time you went to a luncheon and the hostess served peanut butter, bacon and lettuce sandwiches and coffee jelly? Probably never. Although that coffee jelly does sound good.

Most of the photographs are black and white, save for a few every 50-100 pages or so that are in color.

Check out that stand mixer! And as you can also see above, my copy clearly has the same photographs from the original late 1930’s books; the women’s hair is basically marcelled! Which, on top of making me very excited (I love Marcel waves), also leaves me wondering: were the same photographs kept the same for every copy of this book? Or did they change at any point? I can’t see the 1950’s versions having photos of women with marcelled hair in them… that would be very outdated by then. Not to mention I’m sure cooking techniques & equipment would have drastically changed by then as well. If anyone out there has a later copy, I’d love to know the answers to these questions!

I don’t know the origins of her getting the book. The printing date is 7 years after she was married, but before she moved out of the apartment in the Bronx to her home on Long Island. So it wasn’t a wedding gift or housewarming gift. Perhaps she went and bought it for herself?  I don’t know. I wish I had asked her. I wish I had asked her that night where she got it, but I didn’t. I was more interested in flipping through it and eating, and I was distracted by the excitement of Christmas. It went onto my book shelf and I didn’t take it down again until after she passed away, and then it was only briefly.

;

The canning & preserving recipes have changed, too. Not a lot, but mainly the methods (they discuss the paraffin wax technique) and timing (and sugar amounts), and the USDA would probably say to be on the safe side they shouldn’t be used. Even the way food was served back then is totally different. Lots of decorations, ruffly lettuce underneath, turnips/tomatoes/cucumbers cut into flowers, etc. Not to mention the food photography! It’s funny that food blogs now have livelier photos and better photographed food. But can you imagine what a big deal cameras were then? Hey food bloggers: think of your Nikon or Canon with the macro lens that you love so dearly. Women back then didn’t have one of those, and if they did, I guarantee you it was nowhere near the kitchen or the food.

Also in this book there are some killer drawings & diagrams, including floor plans for how a kitchen ought to be laid out- taking into consideration the “service entrance.” ‘Cause really, who doesn’t have a service entrance? Oh, and of course how to set up your dinner service, from appetizer to dessert.

;However some things are timeless. All the baked goods: cakes, cookies, desserts, etc. Those are all the same now as they were back then. Maybe there’s more shortening used in the actual cakes than there is butter, but other than that they’re the same. Meringues are the same. Boiled icing is the same. And the cuts of meat; shoulder, rump roast, etc. The butchering process is the same, as are the standards of good quality meat (“Good beef has a fresh red color, a smooth covering of brittle creamy fat and small streaks of fat distributed through the lean”).

I think, actually, this book will be my go-to guide for choosing meats and cutting them since it goes into so much detail. And of course, vegetables are still vegetables. The food pyramid may have changed 100x since this book was printed, but the stress on eating more vegetables and less fats is still the same. The general idea of entertaining is still the same, too, albeit the methods are different (no longer would you read a cookbook that said something along the lines of “Lead your guests out of the dining space into a lounge area… by the time the guests have lit up a cigarette and begun to drink their after- dinner drinks, the dining table should long be forgotten”).

Why are we so quick to assume that the people in the past have nothing in common with us today? Do iPads and smartphones make so much of a difference that people aren’t fundamentally after the same things in life? I don’t think so. We just think our ways are better. I happen to not always agree with that statement. I lean towards being nostalgic for (and often romanticize) times I never even lived in. Which is dangerous, admittedly, because it means that I’m overlooking the reality to only see the “fun things” or the novelty of it. But let’s face it: we all do that. My grandparents and great-grandparents lived through Prohibition, and if they were alive today they’d tell you it wasn’t exactly like Boardwalk Empire.

I can, of course, see the benefits in technology & modernization. A hand mixer is a gift from Zeus & Athena bestowed upon us for convenience & expedience. And these advancements aren’t just in cooking & baking, but everything. My great grandmother’s had their babies at home, no epidurals. Ask most women who have children about that. And laptops? Wow. I couldn’t live without mine, personally. I can’t even remember life with a desktop PC anymore- and that was just a few years ago! I could go on and on… but like I said, I see the benefits of that. And I can understand how much harder life was, even if only because things we take for granted today either took longer or had to be done manually. Isn’t it easier to Google than to find an encyclopedia & look something up? Don’t cell phones make emergencies easier? Isn’t satellite radio way cooler than AM/FM? Yes.

But on the other hand, these things have complicated life and dumbed people down substantially. I said it once before: smart phones are making people stupid. Basically, people are the same they always have been. Deep down. I think a lot of the priorities have changed, and not for the better. But all the way down in the very core of people… they’re the same they always have been. I just think we ALL need to get back to what’s important, and it certainly isn’t who has the latest trend in technology. And it definitely isn’t who has the biggest car, the nicest house, the most offshore accounts or the most popular blog. Build relationships with your kids and your families. Go outside. Get fresh air. Have a picnic. Or read a vintage cook book. It’ll give you a fresh perspective on things, I promise.

I’m reminded once again of how food can tie together memories & feelings, and how a simple cookbook I forgot I had can make me smile on a day when I needed to.

Everybody loves a picnic!

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-James Henry

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I love picnics. I don’t have them often, of course, but I’ve had a few over the course of my life & they’ve always been fun. When I was a kid, my mom used to have “backyard picnics” where we just set up a simple little picnic on the grass in the yard. It wasn’t anything crazy, usually a few sandwiches with the crusts cut off (mine was always either peanut butter or potato chip; yes I ate potato chip sandwiches) and some soda or sparkling water and some snacks. Once or twice on a rainy day we even had an indoor picnic on the floor and had pizza or Chinese food. It was so much fun.

And then you grow up and your sense of fun changes. You forget to do little fun things every now and then, “just because.”;

Taking a cue from that, I decided to have one now. As a “grown-up.” I have these two vintage picnic baskets sitting around that I never used. Plus I’ve been working really hard, on a variety of things (like the new Recipe Index!). I figured, why do I have to actually go somewhere to have a picnic when I can have one right here?! You can have a picnic anywhere- even inside, like I said. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on the Today show about how to prepare a picnic entirely in jars! There are tons of ways to do a picnic, from traditional to un-traditional. Bring cold foods, hot foods, room-temperature foods, salads, wine & cheese. Whatever you like.

The first usage of the word ‘picnic’ is traced to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française, which mentions pique-nique as being of recent origin; it marks the first appearance of the word in print. The term was used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something. Whether picnic is actually based on the verb piquer which means ‘pick’ or ‘peck’ with the rhyming nique meaning “thing of little importance” is doubted; the Oxford English Dictionary says it is of unknown provenance. The word predates lynching in the United States; claims that it is derived from a shortening of ‘pick a n—-r’ are untrue.[2]

The word ‘picnic’ first appeared in English in a letter of the Gallicized Lord Chesterfield in 1748 (OED), who associates it with card-playing, drinking and conversation, and may have entered the English language from this French word.[3] The practice of an elegant meal eaten out-of-doors, rather than a harvester worker’s dinner in the harvest field, was connected with respite from hunting from the Middle Ages; the excuse for the pleasurable outing of 1723 in François Lemoyne‘s painting Hunt Picnic is still offered in the context of a hunt.

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners (including Edwin Young) formed the ‘Picnic Society‘. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.[4]

From the 1830s, Romantic American landscape painting of spectacular scenery often included a group of picnickers in the foreground. An early American illustration of the picnic is Thomas Cole‘s The Pic-Nic of 1846 (Brooklyn Museum of Art).[5] In it, a guitarist serenades the genteel social group in the Hudson River Valley with the Catskills visible in the distance. Cole’s well-dressed young picnickers having finished their repast, served from splint baskets on blue-and-white china, stroll about in the woodland and boat on the lake.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest, too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Pan-European Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian/Austrian border on the 19 August 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4 July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic. In Italy, the favorite picnic day is Easter Monday.

-Wikipedia

I decided to try my hand at a new recipe for a healthier macaroni salad to serve at my little picnic. It’s got basically 3/4 the calories of regular macaroni salad, and it’s got something like 1/3 the fat. Not that these things bother me particularly, because I don’t eat macaroni salad & don’t really count calories anyway, but you can’t have a picnic without some kind of mayo-based or carb-based salad, and I thought it’d be an interesting thing to try. Everyone is looking to cut down on fat nowadays. Not me. I like fat.


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Eh. Let’s just call this a new twist on macaroni salad. From what I hear it’s too delicious to be considered “low fat” or anything. And about my “I like fat” comment above; I really do like it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. I’m just being an asshole. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or health issues, lower fat diets are important. It’s just that I don’t. So I like fat. And I can’t really apologize for that.

‘Kay, now that that’s settled.. on to the salad!

CREAMY MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound macaroni (I used small shells)
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 hard-boiled large eggs, whites roughly chopped, yolks left whole
  • 2 dill pickle spears, chopped
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons chives for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions in salted boiling water. Drain and return to the pot it was cooked in.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the two egg yolks in a large bowl with a fork. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, and the lemon juice; stir together until creamy & smooth.
  3. Add pasta to mayonnaise mixture, and using a silicone spatula, flip and stir the pasta until evenly coated in the mayo mix. Add the egg whites, red onions and chopped pickles and mix well.
  4. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

This salad can be stored in the fridge an airtight container for up to three days. If it’s too dry after taking it out of the fridge, you can add a tablespoon more yogurt (or mayo, whatever). Just do yourself a favor and don’t accidentally buy vanilla yogurt. You’ll gross yourself out big time if you use that…

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The cool thing about macaroni salads (& potato salads) is that you can add pretty much anything you like, within reason. You can add radishes, celery, sliced Bell peppers, dill, slivered carrots, exchange the lemon juice for vinegar, etc. Take out stuff you don’t like, add stuff you do. This other macaroni salad I made is a great example of that. You can personalize it 100% and yet it’s always guaranteed to be delicious.

As far as a picnic goes- it’s easy. You don’t even need anything crazy. Some bread (mine was a French baguette), cheese (I had some provolone & goat’s milk brie), macaroni or potato salad, fried chicken if you’re really ambitious, maybe some cold cuts or cold leftover chicken, some fresh fruit (& whipped cream if you like- I had strawberries, cherries, oranges & nectarines), maybe some warm-weather friendly cupcakes, a jar or two of pickles (I brought red wine vinegar/red onion pickles & dilly beans), maybe some sliced cucumbers & yogurt, baby carrots & ranch dressing, a refreshing drink or two (maybe even some wine- not pictured) and some cutlery and napkins… that’s it. You’re ready to go! Lucky for you, I took some photos of my little picnic before digging in.

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Today might be a rainy/thunderstorm-y day here in New York & a bunch of other places on the East Coast, but when are you having your summer picnic?

Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.

This…

They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.

BLACK & TAN IRISH MAC-N-CHEDDAR

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)

Directions:

  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

Delicious, even if you aren’t a shepherd.

Back when I was a kid, certain foods terrified me. Pot pies, shepherd’s pies, chicken stuffed with anything; those are just a few of the food items I ran from screaming. My parents loved shepherd’s pie. Everytime they’d order it, I’d cringe & order my requisite burger, fries and mozzarella sticks. Since I’ve grown up, I have a different take on them. Especially since now I can make them myself, and customize what goes into them. I’d say things have changed.

I love potatoes and onions and veggies, and of course, I’ve always loved cheese. I’m not a huge red meat fan nowadays, but when combined with the aforementioned things, I can dig it. And shepherd’s pie is exactly the kind of thing that combines all of those lovely foods and also sticks to your ribs on a night when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. It’s the perfect time to get fat and eat warm, hearty food. Shepherd’s pie is a traditional meat & potato casserole that is technically shepherd’s pie only when made with lamb, otherwise it’s cottage pie, although nowadays they seem to be synonymous.

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game pie, pot pie and mutton pie were popular and served in pastry “coffyns.” These pies were cooked for hours in a slow oven, and topped with rich aspic jelly and other sweet spices. The eating of “hote [meat] pies” is mentioned in Piers Plowman, and English poem written in the 14th Century. (Cooking of the British Isles, Adrian Bailey, pages 156-7) The Elizabethans favored minced pies. “A typical Elizabethan recipe ran: Shred your meat (mutton or beef) and suet together fine. Season it with cloves, mace, pepper and some saffron, great raisins and prunes…”

The key to dating Shepherd’s pie is the introduction (and acceptance) of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food. They were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Potatoes did not appeal to the British palate until the 18th Century. (Foods America Gave the World, A. Hyatt Verrill, page 28). Shepherd’s Pie, a dish of minced meat (usually lamb, when made with beef it is called “Cottage Pie”) topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep–hence the name. The actual phrase “Shepherd’s Pie” dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular.”

– Courtesy foodtimeline.org

This isn’t the first shepherd’s pie I’ve made, I made one last year with Guinness that was so delicious I couldn’t imagine anything topping it. However I was stuck indoors with no desire to leave to buy stout or gravy mix, so I opted to make a simpler and quicker version. I omitted the Guinness, the tomato paste and the gravy mix; however I kept the cheese idea. This time I use sharp cheddar and I mixed the cheese in with the mashed potatoes before topping the beef. Also, I didn’t peel the potatoes. I like the rustic look of the skin mixed in, besides the fact potato skins are good for you!

Potato skins store many nutrients and also contain a lot of fiber, which is essential for a healthy diet. Leaving the potato skins on also helps preserve the nutrients in the flesh of the potato, which have a tendency to escape during cooking. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, a large baked potato, including the skin, has 278 calories. Only 3 of these calories are from fat. A baked potato contains only 1% of the fat allowance considered as part of a healthy diet, with 0% of this being saturated fat.

The potato, as well as the skin, is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Potatoes and potato skins contain 18% of the recommended daily allowance of iron and 7.5 grams of protein, which is rarely found in vegetables in such high concentrations. Potato skins also contain a variety of phytonutrients, which are a natural source of antioxidants that help to prevent cellular deterioration of the body. The phytonutrients found in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid.

Potatoes are classified as a tuber, meaning bulb or root, and contain a protein called patatin specific to these types of vegetables. Patatin also works as an effective antioxidant and helps to lower blood pressure. Potato skins may even help to provide protection against heart disease and cancer.

The result? An excellent dish. You would think mashing the potatoes is difficult, but it’s not. Nor is it time consuming. It comes together very easily and quickly. Even if you think you don’t have time, you should try it. You’d be surprised at how easy it is. Like instant pudding, instant mashed potatoes are one of those things that make me scratch my head. Is it really that bad to boil & mash a few potatoes? No. Not at all.

SUPER EASY SHEPHERD’S PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs ground round beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups vegetables – chopped carrots, corn, peas, green beans (I used a half bag of frozen mixed veggies plus some extra sliced carrots)
  • 1 ½ – 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (depending on taste, I like more)
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Wash and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter (½ a stick) in large frying pan.
  3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
  4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcestershire sauce. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Take out potatoes and mash them in bowl with remainder of butter, plus ¼ cup heavy cream. Add cheddar and combine thoroughly. Season to taste.
  6. Place beef, veggies and onions in greased baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
  7. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

So while it won’t replace the Guinness shepherd’s pie, it’s an excellent alternative for the nights when there’s no Guinness to be had. A mouth-watering alternative. One that I had three helpings of.

You can use any kind of potatoes you like; Yukon gold, Jersey Royal, Rooster, Red Pontiac, etc. I used Russet. And if you’re really philosophically opposed to mashing your own, use Ore-Ida’s Steam n’ Mash. They’re the closest thing to real mashed potatoes you can get. And yes, you can use ground turkey. I’m not a fan of it, so I stick to good quality organic ground beef. But to each his own! I don’t ever eat red meat, so when I do it’s not a big deal to me. If you eat it often or have high cholesterol, etc, use fat free cheese and ground turkey, and sauté the onions in olive oil instead of butter. Although I wouldn’t skimp on using real butter for the mashed potatoes. Smart Balance or margarine just doesn’t work as well, although maybe a butter substitute made with olive oil would work better. If you like your shepherd’s pie more liquid-y, you can add ½ cup beef broth (or chicken broth) to the cooking meat to add more “sauce.” I like mine moist, but dry enough that it holds its shape somewhat well, so I didn’t use it, and I found it was plenty moist.

The best thing to happen to me so far “this year” is seeing American Idiot on Broadway with Jay back on January 1st. It was fucking awesome, Billie Joe Armstrong is in it for a limited engagement playing St. Jimmy. I also saw Tom Hulce (a producer of the show & the actor who played Mozart in Amadeus) at the performance, although I didn’t know it was him (I was behind him) & basically told him to get out of the aisle & sit down. Haha. Oops. My big mouth hasn’t gotten any better in the new year. Add that to a delicious dinner at Robert Emmett’s (who, by the way, serve what looks like a dynamite shepherd’s pie)… perfect. So I know it’s only a been a week, but how is everyone doing so far with their resolutions for 2011? I didn’t make any, I never do. But I have changed a lot since 2010. See? (Not really.)

The worst part? The stomach virus I’ve been battling since 2010 (okay, only since December 30, 2010… but still). It finally seems to have gone away, leaving me weighing less. Which might be good for some, but not for me. Looks like I’ll be eating double to get back up to my normal weight so my favorite jeans fit right again. More shepherd’s pie, anyone?