Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bonus feature . . . Leaf Peepin' the Kanc

Fall is my favorite time of year . . . the colors, the brisk air, my wedding anniversary . . .

We went to the White Mountains to celebrate our anniversary . . . enjoy a snapshot of our ride on the Kancamagus Highway . . .

From Soup to Nuts

I grew up in Pennsylvania and one of the things I miss is Scrapple . . . a breakfast . . . uh . . . meat . . . yeah, meat that is made with  . . . er . . . dare I say, scraps of pork (snouts, ears and the like) mixed with corn meal formed into a loaf.  It is traditionally browned in butter and served with eggs and sometimes with syrup on the side.  It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing . . . it sounds yucky but it is SO good. 

Now, my husband is a Jersey boy.  When we were dating he introduced me to Pork Roll, which I’d never heard of before.  It is a very Jersey thing.  Also, considered a breakfast meat it is served with eggs or on an egg and cheese sandwich or even on a cheeseburger.  Pork roll is a type of sausage-like meat product commonly available in and around New Jersey and Philadelphia and often called Taylor Ham.   However, according to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 pork roll does not meet the legal definition of "ham".

These regional  . . . meats . . . that we like to pig out on . . . on occasion . . . got me thinkin’ . . . what other locally unique pork-dilly-icious culinary oinkers are being served up throughout the US?

Jambalaya is a very Louisiana soup style dish which similar to the saffron colored paella found in Spanish culture. There are two primary methods of making jambalaya – Creole and Cajun.  The primary differentiator is the exclusion of tomato in the Cajun version.  Jambalaya is a combination of meat (pork, chicken or sausage), vegetables and seafood. 
Lastly, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring. The dish is finished when the rice has cooked.

Boudin is another porkish food common to Louisiana.  There are different variations but you will normally find boudin blanc which is a white sausage made of pork without the blood. Pork liver and heart meat are typically included. In Cajun versions, the sausage is made from a pork rice dressing, (much like dirty rice) which is stuffed into pork casings. The Louisiana version is normally simmered or braised, although coating with oil and slow grilling for tailgating is becoming a popular option in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  Now THAT sounds downright yummy!

Apparently Spam is very popular in Hawaii . . . who woulda thunk it?  Introduced in 1937, the original meaning of the name "Spam" was "Shoulder of Pork and Ham". So, now you know . . . it’s not a mystery meat after all.   Spam musubi is a very popular snack and lunch food in Hawaii made in the tradition of Japanese onigiri. Spam musubi is composed of a block of rice with a slice of grilled Spam on top andnori (seaweed) wrapping to hold it together.  Basically, spam sushi.  I like spam cut into cubes, alternately skewered with pineapple chunks, slathered with barbeque sauce and grilled or baked.  YUM!

The spiedie (pronounced /ˈspiːdi/ "speedy") is a dish enjoyed throughout Central New York State.  Spiedie consists of cubes of pork (or chicken) marinated overnight in a special marinade, then grilled carefully on spits (if steel skewers are used, they are called "spiedie rods") over a charcoal pit.  They are served on soft Italian bread or a roll, and sometimes drizzled with fresh marinade.

Bologna sausage is an American sausage.  US Government regulations require American bologna to be finely ground, and without visible pieces of lard.  In Oklahoma they like their barbequed bologna – you can even find it on the menus of many restaurants.    It is a thick slab that gets dry-rubbed with pepper and spice, charcoal cooked, then sauced and served on a sandwich roll.  It doesn’t sound too bad . . . but there’s no way I’m going to order bologna from a restaurant.

St. Louis has Barbeque Snoots . . . which, as you may have guessed, is grilled pig snouts and cheeks served with barbeque sauce.  There’s a particular way to cook them to de-fat them because apparently porky has a pudgy face.  First you make crisscross indentations thru the meat and fat bit through the skin and they are grilled flat.  This helps drain off the fat while they’re cooking so they get crispy.  The barbecue sauce is applied AFTER cooking . . . never before or during . . . it’s some kind of rule.

The south has pickled pig’s feet.  It is considered African American soul food but has its origins in Irish cuisine.  The feet of hogs are typically salted and smoked in the same manner as other pork cuts, such as hams and bacon. And then pickled in a saturation of hot vinegar brine.  They are mostly served as a snack or side dish.  It’s kind of funny . . . the thought of eating pigs feet grosses me out because they tromp around in the mud and muck and whatnot . . . but I’ll happily eat scrappy and lord knows where they put their noses!  It’s best not to dwell on these things.

Now . . . if you’re really looking to have a ball . . . try some hog fry.  More common in the western United States where they seem to have an affinity for eating barnyard jewels and farm oysters which are boiled, seasoned, breaded and fried.    I have neither the desire nor testicular fortitude to try this delicacy but I’ve read that they have a musty flavor which is understandable considering where they come from.

So . . . there ya have it . . . from soup to nuts . . . quite literally.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reindeer Games

When I was eighteen I got to go on a trip of a lifetime; three full weeks in Sweden with a bunch of other teenagers and without my parent.  Sure, we had chaperones but they weren’t overly paying attention since it was probably a trip of a lifetime for them, as well.

One of the many highlights of the trip was our visit to Lapland which is the northernmost region of the country within the Arctic Circle . . . the land of the midnight sun.   One cool things I saw was the herds of reindeer.  They are truly beautiful and majestic beasts.  And they’re tasty, too! 

Reindeer, also known as caribou, belongs to the family of deer (Cervidae) and is basically found inhabiting bleak arctic plain, or tundra, and the surrounding forest and mountain areas. The wild reindeer can be found in Norway, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska and Canada in large population and about 50 of them are seen around the Cairngorms region in Scotland.

The origins of the word 'deer' comes from the Middle English word 'der' meaning beast and from the Old English word 'dor'. The origins of 'rein' comes from the Old Norse word 'hreinn'

Male reindeer shed their antlers in the winters while the females don’t shed theirs until spring. In most pictures of Santa’s reindeer they all have antlers, so it can be assumed that they are female. 

Reindeer is the only deer that can be domesticated.  It provides, meat, clothing and transportation to humans.  And, because Reindeer milk is very high in protein and fats it can be made into cheese and butter. 

The reason for all the reindeer factoids?  I found a cute little project to make wine and champagne corks into cute little reindeer . . .

Cork Reindeer Instructions

You can use whatever corks you want for the reindeer.  You can make this cork reindeer with a Champagne cork head or a regular head, whatever tickles your fancy.  I’ve made two different versions . . . both were easy and fun and awfully darned cute!   A good project to do with the kiddies . . .

You will need:

  • 2 Corks Per Reindeer
  • 7 Toothpicks Or Jewelry Wire
  • Glue
  • 2 Googly Eyes (Or A Marker To Draw Them On)
  • 1 Red Pom Pom Nose (Or A Marker To Draw One On)
  • A Red Ribbon (Optional)
  • A Bell (Optional)

You shouldn’t need any special tools to get the toothpicks or wire into the cork. 

Start with the four legs. For version 1.0, I cut the toothpicks in half and inserted the pointy into the body.  For version 2.0, I cut four pieces of wire to equal length and looped the ends for little feet.  Put those into the body, two in front, two in back. If they don't balance exactly you can either stick the longer ones in a bit more or you may have to trim them up.

Now the head. Glue on the two googly eyes and the nose if you have them. Otherwise draw them on with a marker.

Put in two toothpicks for the antlers.  I also made a pair of wire antlers with wire by bending them.

Add a bow or ribbon or bell or whatever on to the front of the body.

And there you have it.  I cute little  reindeer! Or, in my case, two. 


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love is Like a Cabbage

My love is like a cabbage

Divided into two.
The leaves I give to others, 
The heart I give to you.

Cabbage Patch Kids – you had one as a kid.  Its okay you can admit it.  *I* didn’t have one . . . I am so happy to admit it!  Even if you didn’t have one you most likely know what they are.  Creepy little buggers, they are.  Kind of scary looking, actually.

However, if you just so happened to have lived in a cave during the eighties . . . Cabbage Patch Kids are a doll line created by Debbie Morehead and Xavier Roberts in 1978 and originally called "Little People". In the eighties the dolls became so popular that they couldn’t be produced fast enough to meet the huge demand . . . Mother Cabbage had to work overtime to pump out those little cabbages, I can tell you!  Fights actually broke out in toys stores by people who had to have the bizarre smooshy-faced little dolls.

Each Cabbage Patch Kid came with its own unique name and birthday, adoption papers, and a birth certificate.  Each doll was, due to some small variation, a "one of a kind."  Children loved the process of "adoption" for the dolls, where they would send adoption papers to adopt the dolls. 

Do you think the cabbage patch kids are confused that these people are not their real parents?  (Bonus points to anyone who knows where that statement comes from!)

While I am on the subject of cabbage . . . my Babba made THE most kickin’est stuffed cabbage . . . EVER.  Great gramma came to America from Czechoslovakia in the 1940’s and she brought the old world food traditions with her.

Slovak Stuffed Cabbage - HALUPKI RECIPE     

  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1 Pound Ground Pork
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • 1 Teaspoon Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 1/2 Cup Cooked Rice
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons Garlic Salt           
  • 2 (10.75 Ounce) Cans Condensed Tomato Soup
  • 27 Ounces Sauerkraut, Drained
  • 1 (29 Ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium Head Cabbage
  • 5 Slices Bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • 3 Cups Water

1.         Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.
2.         Mix beef and pork together. Stir in onion, cooked rice, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic salt and 1/2 can of tomato soup. Mix well.

3.         Core head of cabbage, place in boiling water and boil until partly cooked. Separate leaves and trim stems. Reserve about 24 to 32 whole leaves. Cut remaining leaves and line the bottom of large roasting pan.

4.         Lightly pack a small handful of the meat mixture and place in the center of a cabbage leaf. Fold top part of leaf over mixture, then fold in the sides and roll until mixture is completely encased. Lay rolls on top of torn cabbage leaves in pan. Place sauerkraut evenly over rolls. Lay bacon on top of sauerkraut. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix chopped tomatoes and soup with water and pour over rolls. Add additional water to reach top of cabbage rolls.

5.         Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 1/2 hours or until cooked through.

Serve with a heaping pile of homemade smashed taters!  YUMS!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Afternoon Delight - A Lunchtime Quicky #4

Open wide . . . time for a quicky!

Not THAT kind of quicky . . . sheesh!

Fresh . . . colorful . . . healthful . . . and quick.  YUM!

Carrot Slaw

·        1 Pounds Carrots
·        1/2 Cup Mayonnaise, Lo-fat
·        Pinch Kosher Salt
·        1/3 Cup Sugar or Splenda
·        1/2 Cup Canned Pineapple, Drained Thoroughly Of All Liquid
·        1/2 Cup Raisins
·        2 Teaspoons Ground Mustard

Wash the carrots and peel, if necessary. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrots into wide noodle-shaped strips.  To save even more time, you can get pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, salt, sugar, pineapple, raisins, and ground mustard. Add the carrots and toss to combine. 
Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1 hour to serve cold.

Easy squeasy and nom-dilly-icious.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A nickel's worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins

I love goulash  . . .  a quick easy one-pot meal that is filling, satisfying and versatile.

Goulash - gulyás - is a traditional Hungarian dish that in its truest form is cooked with beef, onions, tomato, some green pepper and paprika.  It is considered a soup, albeit a hearty soup, and is a staple in Hungarian households.  It is a substantial meal that is sometimes served with noodles or potato but the recipe is consistent.

The goulash that I know and love bares little resemblance to this dish but has been tossed into the melting pot and what comes out is not traditional Gulyás but American goulash.  The primary similarity . . .  the name and the beef. 

American Goulash can be found in any number of forms.  But typically included elbow macaroni, ground beef, and some form of tomatoes (canned, fresh, soup, etc).  It is a simple meal that is easy to prepare.

There are countless variations depending on the state, region, ethnicity of the cook.  Ingredients that may be used are corn, bell peppers, onions, celery, kidney beans, or chile peppers.  Cheese is a welcome addition to almost any dish . . . so toss it on!

A friend of mine makes a killer goulash . . . I don’t know the recipe.  The base ingredients are the usual but it includes pretty much anything that is left over  . . . brocooli, eggplant, mushrooms, squash, beans.

The recipe I grew up with was ground beef sautéed with onions with elbow macaroni, canned tomatoes and black olives - sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese.  Yum!

Here is my favorite Goulash recipe.

  • 1 Lb Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 Lbs Ground Beef
  • 3 Teaspoons Minced Garlic
  • 1 Medium Chopped Onion
  • 1 Chopped Green Pepper
  • 2 Or 3 Chopped Chili Peppers
  • 8-10 Small Fresh Tomatoes – Skinned, Seeded And Chopped (Canned Can Be Substituted, Of Course)
  • 1 Small Can Tomato Paste
  • One Can Kidney Beans
  • One Can Black Olives
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Cups Sour Cream
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Bring water to boil for macaroni and cook until done. Drain and leave in colander. 

Brown the ground beef. Drain the grease and put in the colander with the macaroni.

Saute the garlic, onions and peppers in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until soft with a little crunch left in them.  

Add the tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes. 

Add the macaroni, ground beef, kidney beans and olives.  Stir until combined. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the tomato paste diluted with a little water and stir until mixed well.

Cover and cook for 30 minutes and then add sour cream. 

Serve with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chili Stuff

One of my all time favorite stand-by meals when I don’t feel like cooking or haven’t gone grocery shopping or just need something quick and satisfying is Chili Stuff.  Well, that’s what we call it.  I grew up in the sticks of south central Pennsylvania.  I’m not sure how relevant that is to why we ate Chili Stuff . . . A LOT . . . but it might be when you learn the origins of the stuff . . . chili stuff.

I introduced my husband to it fairly early on in our relationship.  He likes chili and he likes pasta and he likes cheese . . . so throw it all together and what’s NOT to like.  He likes it. 

My recipe for Chili Stuff goes as thus . . . one pound thin spaghetti (cooked), two cans Hormel Chili with meat and beans (heated), put the spaghetti in a bowl, top with chili, sprinkle on a boatload of Parmesan cheese, eat.  To make authentic Chili Stuff, it HAS to be Hormel.  Like I said, it’s quick and easy grub. 

Sooooo, one day we were watching the History Channel and a show about food came on . . . one of the foods the details was some stuff called Cincinnati Chili . . . it looked a lot like our Stuff! 

Central Pennsylvania – Ohio . . . not so far apart geographically.  The possible influence of our neighbor is duly noted.

History of Cincinnati Chili

Cincinnati, Ohio loves their chili . . . almost as much as Texas or maybe more.  Believe it or not, Cincinnati is the second biggest chili state and has more than 180 chili establishments . . . they like their chili.   However, Cincinnati-style chili is nothing like Texas chili.  The people of Cincinnati are serious about their chili.

What’s so different about it?  For one thing it has much soupier consistency.  And then there’s the curious combination of spices used to season the meat . . . cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice, and Worcestershire.   

Like our Chili Stuff, the good folks of Cincinnati like chili over a pile of pasta.  And then to top it off it is ‘garnished’ with a combination of chopped onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, refried beans or kidney beans, and crushed oyster crackers.

Also there is a proper way to order the chili . . . two-way, three-way, four-way, five-way, six-way.

·         A Two-Way is simply Chili served on spaghetti but no true Cincinattian orders a two-way . . . it must always come with cheese!
·         A Three-Way is a two-way topped with cheddar cheese
·         A Four-Way  is a three-way topped with chopped onions
·         A Five-Way is a four-way topped with kidney beans
·         A Six-way is a five-way topped with sour cream

All this is served heaping – Ohioans don’t skimp on the ingredients – on a traditional oval dish. The oyster crackers are served on the side.

If you happen to be ordering chili in Cincinatti and you want to test the establishment for authenticity, ask for a Four-Way. If the server asks you whether you want beans or onions, you know this is fake Cincinnati chili, since Four-Way always comes with onions.

This is how they make their chili in Cincinnati:

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

  • 4 Large Cloves Garlic, Pressed
  • 2 Large Onions, Chopped
  • 1 Qt. Water
  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 (16 Oz) Can Tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons White Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 Large Bay Leaf
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in hot lard. Add water until simmering. Add the beef. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire and all of the spices. Simmer for 3 hours.

Truthfully, I’ve never made “authentic” Cincinnati Chili.  Chili Stuff is supposed to be quick and easy . . . not a three hour ordeal.   But, I may try it some time . . . or just go to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Firewater Friday . . . The White Mountains

This Firewater Friday is dedicated to our favorite places to partake of brews and noms in the White Mountain region of New Hampshire.  These are our must visit places and a trip isn’t the same without a one or all of these places. (Usually not all of them on the same day!)

Outstanding beers brewed on the premises.  Our absolute favorite . . .  Their seasonal blueberry beer.  It’s a yummy wheat beer that comes on tap late May to early June.  When it’s done for the season, it’s done.  So whenever we’re up there and it’s on tap we fill up our growlers and stock up our fridge at home.    My second favorite is the Hoffman Weiss, a flavorful wheat beer that is simply amazing.  This time of year the seasonal brew is . . .  Moat Octoberfest, a malty rich beer.  Oh and served in pints or 20 oz glasses.  The food at the Moat is nothing to turn your nose up at either.  The in house barbeque and awesome burgers are to drool over but my all-time favorite is their hush puppies served with real maple syrup.  OMG so good!

A great place to go on a Friday or Saturday night when there’s always a live band.   The bar staff are personable and amusing . . . especially Shelley.  The steaks are un-freaking-believable; aged and cooked just the way you like.  They have beer on tap from local micro breweries and house special concoctions like Tommy’s margaritas and Bloody Marys.

The place to go on a Sunday afternoon when they have Irish seisún, or pub session.  Local musicians hang out in the bar and jam, they are incredibly good.   The atmosphere is eclectic and fun with all manner of collectible and whatnots scattered throughout.  The food . . . Irish perfection – MY favorite is her sirloin tips . . . I don’t know what she marinates those things in but they are a taste of heaven.  May Kelly can be seen running around the place like a maniac making sure everything is perfect . . . And it usually is.  All the favorite Irish brews are on tap and served in a correct glass WITH A PROPER POUR.

This place is a favorite  but a bit of a drive from where we normally stay.  But it’s a fantastic drive on the Kancamagus Highway, so I’m not complaining.  Woodstock brews their own beer on site and it’s seriously good stuff!  Though all their beers are remarkable, my seasonal favorite is the Raspberry Wheat, which is their summer offering.   No wait, my seasonal favorite is the Autumn Ale, which is a simply delicious apple spice beer . . . must I have to choose between them?   No, actually I don’t since they serve them up at different times of the year.  The food is so so good.  Their wings are hot as hell, if you want them that way.  Their burgers are big and juicy.  They make most of their own bread with the spent grains from the brewing process.  YUM!  We always make sure to grab a couple of growlers of beer on the way out.  BTW, they also make their own root beer.

A nice cozy restaurant with truly authentic margaritas and Mexican fare.  The food is excellent and the margaritas are outstanding . . . by the glass, pitcher, frozen or whatever.   The best fajitas I've had . . . ANYWHERE!  

Tuckermans isn’t a place to eat or drink, not really.  It’s a local brewery that does tours.  It’s a small operation and the tour is quick.  The best part . . . they give free samples . . . mmmmmm fresh beer!  You typically can’t find their brews outside of Maine and New Hampshire, but you will find their beers on tap at most of the local pubs. 

So, now you know what we do when we go to New Hampshire.  And you thought it was all about the awesome riding!