A lovely meal for a lovely girl

Archived | April 25, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’m tempted to say I was out shoveling, but there wasn’t quite that much snow and no one would laugh at what would have been intended as a joke. Let’s just put it all out there — I’m sick of snow and the sooner it stops appearing the sooner that first round of flowers will bloom. Some of which already are, only to die miserably if it snows yet again.
I’m not complaining. Not a lot, anyway. All we really want is a stretch of warm, sunny days with a breeze and no gutter clogs or ants in the basement or worm carcasses in the garage. Even one day like that is all I want. That, and for prom to be over.
Yes, our oldest daughter is going to the prom on Saturday, and once prom is over, life will find its normal again. Until Sunday morning, her list of things to do is both complicated and strange: pick up dress; find beige underwear without lines; pick up his corsage; check on dinner progress; paint nails, clip toenails; rent movies, etc. There is more. And it has become my list, too. Because I know where to find the underwear, and I’m the one cooking dinner for the happy couple.
It’s tempting to be obnoxious and serve barbecued ribs with corn on the cob, but there would be consequences and I want her to have a happy evening. So it’s spaghetti carbonara complete with garlic, mushrooms, and bacon, and some good bread and a nice salad and French silk pie for dessert. A lovely meal for a lovely girl, and for the boy with the matching tie. I remember the excitement of a night like that. For a girl, anyway. Filled with hopes and dreams and that feeling of being adored.
It’s hard to let go. I hope it doesn’t snow. If it does, it won’t matter much to her. You can be sure of that.
Here’s about the best recipe for pizza dough I’ve come across in all my years. That’s a lot of dough recipes. This is one you ought to hang on to.
Really Fine Dough
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/4 T salt
6 1/2 cups flour
3 cups of the hottest tap water
Mix salt and yeast with water.
Pour into flour and mix until uniform.
Let rise.
Keep in covered container in fridge for quite a while.
Use for pizza crust, or shape into loaves and bake at 350 until crust is soft brown.
Add seasonings for variety.

The feeling of being sated, in mind and body

Archived | April 18, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I love listening to music more than I love most things, and it always feels good to settle in with a kitchen full of eggs and butter and flour for baking and a reliable radio and two hours ahead of nothing but entertainment. I made sugar cookie cutouts in the shapes of chicks and eggs, whipped up a pan of taco bake for dinner, and mixed together a pan of chocolate caramel brownies for my friend Angela, who starts a new job this week.
There are a lot of things in life that bring a person stress, and a new job is right up there. I figured gooey brownies would be just the thing for Angela to return to on her first night after work, and I imagine I was right. I also figured eating a late lunch the day before at the biggest buffet in Minnesota would be a good sendoff. And it was.
And we ate. And ate and ate. This was on Sunday afternoon, and I still don’t have my full appetite back. We ate sushi and rice, scallops and sweet and sour chicken, spinach and green beans and these little pastry balls filled with bean paste and rolled in sesame. We ate noodles and crab and edamame and pork on a stick. We even had a bit of rice pudding and raspberry sherbet and when we were finished we sat awhile and talked. And drank water. Glasses and glasses of water.
It feels good now and then to sit across from someone you love and eat until you tip. The conversation, the smell of fried calamari, the brightly colored lanterns hanging above you — all add to the experience, but what is really at the heart of it is eating a meal with someone who knows who you are. There can be silences or endless chatter and it just plain feels good.
I hope Angela had a good first day at work, and that Minnesota’s biggest buffet is finding success. I hope that a new job is the biggest stress she’ll encounter for a while, and that the people she meets there enjoy table conversation as much as she does. And I hope every person who reads these words has a meal to look forward to — that the rice is as sweet and the pie as filling and the green beans as tangy and crisp and the fish as salty. More than that, I wish the feeling of being sated, in mind and body, of having had one’s fill of cupcakes and conversation. It’s a good thing, to break bread. Better to do so together. For sure.
I’ve had ham for Easter for as long as I recall, and this recipe is a simple variation on other simple variations. Give it a go this weekend, with some corn casserole and some fresh rolls.
Ham for Dinner
1 country style smoked ham
2 c. water
20 – 30 whole cloves
one (16 ounce) can sliced pineapple rings
1 cup Maraschino cherries, cut into halves
1 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
sprinkling of garlic powder
sprinkling of onion powder
sprinkling of black pepper
olive oil (spray is handy)
Place ham in roaster. Add 2 cups water, and cover. Bake at 325°, about 21 minutes per pound for a large ham, about 25 minutes per pound for a smaller (up to 12 pounds) ham or half ham. If the ham has an exposed bone, cover it with foil. Spray occasionally with olive oil during the first part of the cooking. Continue roasting until a thermometer inserted in center reads about 160°.
When ham is done, remove from oven. Lift off rind. Using a sharp knife, score fat surface crosswise (into intersecting squares) and dot with cloves at each intersection.
To prepare the ham coating, combine brown sugar and flour. Rub this mixture over the scored ham. Sprinkle over lightly with garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
Place a pineapple slice on the ham so that one of the cloves will be in the center of the circle. Cover the clove with a Maraschino cherry half. Each cherry half should be placed in the center of a pineapple slice. Continue until ham is covered with pineapple slices and cherries. Brown, uncovered, for 20 – 25 minutes in a 400°F oven or until ham takes on a beautiful glazed coloring.
Garnish the ham plate with pineapple slices and parsley.

Keeping a little mystery in life

Archived | April 13, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been out in the yard lately cleaning up after the snow melt and I was bushed. I’m rarely horizontal when I listen to the show but Saturday it was almost necessary. I crawled into bed early Saturday night, and fell into sleep as I hit the pillow.
I am not one to indulge in a huge amount of sleep, but I do enjoy a good 8 hours now and then. One or twice a month, I’d say. The funny thing about Saturday night is how I woke up several times with my leg hanging out from under the quilts and over the side of the bed, and each time I quickly pulled it back under the covers. I’ve had this thing since I was a kid, a bit quirky, I guess. I have a fear that if I let my bare foot hang over the edge, something is going to grab it. A creature or whatever. I don’t know.
It’s similar to my need to close the closet door so there’s no black space between the door and the frame from which that same creature or whatever might peer out at me. Irrational, I know. But it’s true. Residual childhood stuff. We all have it. Doesn’t keep me awake anymore, for sure, but I tell ya — there’s that zone between awake and sleep where all kinds of thoughts bloom. The nice thing about being a parent is that I’ve had to explain to the kids: there’s nothing in the closet. There’s nothing under the bed. And I know that. But still. I think it’s one way of keeping a little mystery in life. Little bit of mystery keeps you on your toes, for sure.
I’ve had a craving lately for snacks with salt or cheese… and this recipe took care of it for the time being.
Pita Wedges
2 regular sized pita pockets (6 inch)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
16 slices pepperoni
4 round slices provolone cheese
1/3 cup medium chunky salsa
Heat olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in microwave on high for 40 seconds. Remove and add butter. Stir and set aside. Cut pita pockets into 4 triangles. (Slice in half, then slice each half again to make the wedges). Cut again along curved outer edge to separate into two. Brush both sides of the pita wedges with warm olive oil mixture, coating well.
Place wedges crust side down on a baking sheet. Spread 1 teaspoon of salsa on top of each wedge. Cut provolone slices into 4 wedge shapes and place one on top of each. Top with a slice of pepperoni, if desired. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt.
Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Serve while still warm.
Makes 16 wedges.

Here’s to spring, yours and mine

Archived | April 4, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Made beef stroganoff for dinner that evening, a double batch because one isn’t quite enough, and left over beef stroganoff is a treat in itself. Certainly. Almost as good as left over wild rice soup or buttermilk pancake batter. And pizza. Oh, gosh.
You’d think with spring around the corner we’d all be eating salad and fruit, but, frankly, I’m still in comfort mode. It did snow yesterday morning, after all, and there are still piles of it around town. Winter may be over, but spring isn’t quite here, so we’re all a bit uncertain. What do we do? I tried picking up the yard a bit this morning, but the ground is still frozen and you can pull on a stuck rock only so long before you feel a bit silly with your butt up in the air and your face all red and gasping.
Patience, then. A good week for cleaning out the hall closet and airing out the house. For one last crock pot filled up with stew, for a few handwritten letters. We’re turning a slow corner, and patience is the thing. Impatience makes a person look a bit foolish, and why waste your emotional energy? You’re going to need it once summer’s heat rolls in. I hear it’s going to be a humdinger. Here’s to spring, yours and mine, and to the green of grass and to bird songs, early as all get out these past few mornings.
One of my favorite dining out desserts is fried ice cream. What I don’t know is whether it’s actually fried; what I do know is that it’s delicious. So I tried making my own. Unfried. And it ain’t half bad.
Mrs. Sundberg’s Fried Ice Cream
Vanilla ice cream, frozen
Your favorite granola (with cinnamon works best)
Cool Whip
Break or crush granola so there are no large chunks. Place in medium sized bowl. Shape ice cream into balls about the size of tangerines or billiard balls, and press into granola, rotating and pressing until the ice cream is completely covered with granola. Place two of the ice cream balls in a bowl, drizzle honey over, and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
A variety of cereals may work in place of the granola.