Tag Archives: cooking

S is for Salsa

You will never be able to convince me that salsa is not the most versatile food on the planet. S

You can make it out of almost anything, with tomato being the front-runner. But I have a version that uses oranges and roasted tomatillos that is divine. And a cabbage based salsa that people can’t stop eating, plus it’s great on fish taco.

It can be the simplest combination of chopped, juicy, ripe tomatoes with chopped onions, some minced jalapenos for tingle, fresh cilantro for herby goodness and a sprinkle of salt to bring it all together. There are complicated unions of black beans and fruit that I don’t understand but I would be willing to try. There is mango salsa, a condiment about which epic poems should be written and anthems should be sung.

And does any other food perform so many duties? You dip tortilla chips or carrot sticks into salsa. You can mix in some sour cream and serve it cold, or mix in some


Who wants a recipe?

cream cheese or Velveeta and serve it hot! Cram it between two tortillas with some cheese and you have a quesadilla!

Add some vinegar and olive oil, you’ve got a salad dressing. Add some mayo, and you’ve got a dressing for coleslaw, or something to spread on burgers.

It works as a pasta sauce. It works as a pizza sauce. You can cook chicken parts or pork chops in it. You can use it to transform avocados into guacamole, which is another kind of magic.

It’s been added to egg, chicken, pasta and potato salads, to the betterment of all involved.

Eggs. Salsa does beautiful things to and with eggs.

It can be green, red, black, purple or any combination thereof. The heat level can range from just tangy with no heat to blistering the skin off the inside of your mouth.

It’s all good. It’s all salsa.

Where are my chips?S


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

E is for Earl’s Pancakes

I did not know I had so much to say about my parents before I started this blogging challenge. EFunny how things just come out sometimes.

Earl was my dad. I got my belly laugh from him. And my sturdy calves, at least according to my sister.

I don’t remember Dad cooking a whole lot. I know he would come home late from shift work at Benson Mines and eat milk toast or sardines on crackers. I know he had a fondness for creamed chipped beef on toast, also known as Shit on a Shingle, but I don’t know that he ever cooked it for himself.

But Dad was famous for his pancakes. The sweet aroma of the cakes on the griddle mingled with the seductive scents of frying bacon and brewing coffee (and, most likely, cigarettes). There was no greater sense of contentment, as a child, than lying on the front porch, warm in the sun, reading the Sunday funny papers while pleasantly full of pancakes that had been smothered in maple syrup. (Real maple syrup was a right, not a privilege.)

If you want to recreate that Sunday morning euphoria, I’ve included the recipe. I haven’t made them myself with bacon fat, but that’s a challenge I’m willing to accept. They’re much better than any boxed pancake mix, and I’m fairly certain I’ve always added too many blueberries. That’s my approach to life: too many blueberries, why not?


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chutney Challenge Part 2: What Did YOU Cook?

In September I formulated the Chutney Challenge. Find something old that is languishing in the back of your cupboard in just use it. Because I listed the many, many bottles, jars and bags that I need to either use or lose.

Here’s the trick: don’t let your family read the expiration dates on the bottles before dinner. I mean, those bottles are sealed. The contents are just fine. So what if the company doesn’t make that product any longer, and has, in fact, gone out of business? Ain’t no big thing.

Moroccan Grilling Sauce. This was almost too easy. Poured the bottle over some boneless chicken breasts and grilled them. Tasted fine. Tasted like chicken. Marinade was a trifle sweet, but not bad. Served with couscous (for a pantry double play), and carrots roasted with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cumin, garlic and salt. I have to do carrots that way again, they were delicious.

Red Dragon Asian Sauce and Dressing. Well, hell. Got leftover chicken anyway, made Asian chicken salad. Lots o’ greens, snow peas, bean sprouts, cucumbers, a yellow pepper and chicken. The dressing was great, because it had a little kick of heat that crept in as you kept eating. I think this would be a great dip for pot stickers. Or could be awesome on chicken wings, but I’m on a chicken wing kick right now, and would probably eat them in a boat or with a goat.

Remember the Red Curry Dipping Sauce? Well, there I was, about to make a meatloaf that called for some tomato sauce. Wait! What if I subbed in the curry sauce? Which I did and it was delicious. I will say, I’m not the world’s biggest meatloaf fan to begin with, so it doesn’t take much to make an improvement on most recipes.

Next up was the Spicy Bulgogi Barbecue Sauce. What to do, what to do. Then I came across a recipe that everyone seemed to be talking about on Pinterest. It’s designed for a 9×13″ pan. You put a line of boneless, skinless chicken breasts down the middle of the pan, then pile small new potatoes (or cut up mature potatoes) on one side, and green beans on the other. As I had just been to the farmers market, I had the potatoes and the green beans. The interweebs says you’re supposed to sprinkle a packet of Italian dressing mix over everything, then pour a stick of melted butter over the top. Um, why are we taking the skin off the chicken if we’re just going to pour a bucket of another animal’s fat over the top? I don’t get it.

But I dutifully assembled the dish, and instead of butter and dressing mix, I drizzled the bottle of Bulgogi sauce over everything and baked it at 350 till the chicken and potatoes were done. And it was seriously delicious,  a little bit spicy and maybe a trifle too sweet for me. As you can tell, I don’t like my savory dishes to have too much sweet in them. But I realized I could try this recipe again any time, just changing out the sauces. Maybe try carrots in place of the green beans. If you attempt this at home, be sure you cut up the potatoes. I believe I also chunked up the chicken, so it would be cooked all the way through.

Next up, I need to use up more couscous. And what will I do with the green curry paste? I haven’t even mentioned the metric ton of fruit jam we now have, thanks to Thing 2’s experiments in the kitchen with a friend this summer.

What’s lurking in your cabinet? What are you going to do with it, hm? Tell me, i want to know. I need the inspiration!

And today’s bonus WTF moment: the spellchecker here wanted me to turn skinless chicken breasts into sinless chicken breasts. Because that’s a thing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Chutney Challenge

Go ahead. I dare you. Take the chutney challenge with me.

Featured image

Go to your kitchen cupboard or your pantry. Throw it open. Reach into the dark recesses and pull out that jar at the back that’s been sitting there, neglected, since you bought it on a whim.

Open it.

Use it.

Tell me what you did with it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to list the many such jars residing in my own pantry. And then, over the next few weeks, I’m going to list how I use them while I refrain from buying any more. (That last part could easily be a lie. I am powerless over delicious-sounding condiments. I just bought chow-chow at a distillery in Palisade from a drunk New Jersey native who was quoting Hunter Thompson at me. True story.)

I have:

Red Dragon Asian Sauce and Dressing (maybe for Asian chicken salad?)

Moroccan Dipping Sauce. Or maybe it was Grilling Sauce. (I don’t have any Moroccans that need to be dipped. Or grilled.)

Wasabi Ginger Sauce (I bet I can make a slaw with this.)

Red Curry Cooking Sauce (Sounds like an easy one.)

Spicy Bulgogi Barbecue Sauce (I can probably make bulgogi, but I know I’m too lazy to make all the side dishes. Good thing I know where to find the Korean grocery store with the best deli.)

Tikka Masala Sauce (I believe I also spotted a box of naan bread mix.)

Pad Thai Noodle Sauce (so, yes, I could make Pad Thai)

Green Curry Paste (This scares me.)

Roasted Red Chili Paste

Harissa Sauce (Supposed to be fiery and delicious. But can it replace Sriracha sauce in my heart and on my table?)

Salsa Verde (2 large jars, which is good planning on my part because I use this all the time)

A bottle of dry barbecue rub

Three kinds of couscous (regular, whole wheat, and large/Israeli)

I also have dried fruit so old and gnarled that I’m not sure what fruit it started out as. If anyone has an idea how I can refresh that and use it, I’d love to hear it. I suppose I could make a very large amount of fruitcake. (Haters: shut up. Good fruitcake is a revelation and a delight.)

And I do have a bottle of the Major Grey’s, pictured above. That one isn’t a challenge, it goes into a dish I make called Curry in a Hurry, which uses any leftover meat (or none, for the veg-heads) and pretty much any combination of vegetables you want to put into it. Takes about 15 minutes to get it ready, not counting cooking the rice you’ll want with it.

How many of these items can I use on chicken to be grilled? How many can I slip into butternut squash soup? How many can be used to make slaw? Warning, we could have some very funky pizzas coming up.

If anyone is still reading, I’ve started a Pinterest board where I’ll try to keep track of the recipes I’m going to use or will consider using. The green curry paste will be a challenge, since I’m not altogether sure I even like it.

What are YOU going to do for the chutney challenge? Or would you like to trade something for my curry paste? Please?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dirty Little Secret

I have an addiction.

Average housewife

What I look like when I cook

For some reason, I can’t pass by an old cookbook at a garage sale, flea market, used book store or secondhand store without picking it up. Flipping through the pages. Unfolding the hidden scraps of paper to decipher the faded penciled lines of a forgotten recipe (an amazing number of which turn out to involve Jello). All too often, I end up buying the darn thing.

Community cookbooks are the worst. I always think they’re going to be a treasure trove of cherished family recipes. The cold reality is molded salads, cheese balls and 8,000 or so ways to use Cream of Something Soup to fool your ingredients into thinking they’re something exotic.

Hint: exotic food does not often begin with a pound of ground beef and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Nope. Doesn’t matter if you stir in a whole quarter-teaspoon of garlic powder or a half-cup of water chestnuts. It’s still as exotic as Aunt Dottie’s bunions. (And why water chestnuts? They’re in half the meatball recipes ever written. Usually coupled with a daring dash of soya sauce.)

I don’t know where “The Pilgrim’s Cookbook II: Ye olde Recipes of Ye Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and Marietta Colony” came from. I also can’t believe this is the second volume.  And yes, I typed the title exactly as it appeared. Maybe I bought it for my daughters, thinking there would be reproductions of Pilgrim fare. The first recipe is for Serbian Spinach and contains frozen spinach and “Velvetta” cheese, two ingredients I don’t think the founders of this country had access to.

Another one I’m culling from the collection is “Favorite Recipes of New York,” compiled in 1964. I almost kept it just for this photo.


Would a nice chicken from a nice family have to rely on so many gaudy accessories?

So someone out there thought that after you trussed and roasted your chicken, you needed to put frilly little anklets on it, garnish the bondage with a lemon twist, and stick olives into every crease. Sounds like a really bad date I had in the 80s.

I’m also jettisoning a book about Asian markets, the Midwestern Farm Bureau Family Cookbook and a handful of spiral bound community cookbooks.

This is not embarrassing. What’s embarrassing are the ones I’m keeping, including entire books devoted to Bundt pans, sandwich presses, fondu and pancakes. I treasure the Better Homes and Garden volume that my mother gave my grandmother for Christmas the year I was born, along with the first cookbook my mother bought for me, a compilation my cousin Hal made of his mother’s recipes, my Joy of Cooking, several Weight Watchers cookbooks (who am I kidding?), and a quirky little tome called Mood Food that tells you what to eat when you’re bored, depressed, tired, celebratory, hung over, amused, scandalized, up to late or just hungry.

And you’ll take my Alton Brown collection when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.





Filed under Uncategorized