Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Perfect Soup

Saturday, Lee and I did something awesome. My mom and dad shared a set of tickets to the Ohio State game. Last year was Lee's first trip to a big college football game and she was immediately addicted. So when my parents asked if I wanted tickets I leaped at the chance. We chose the Illinois game. We watched the weather reports to prepare and dutifully packed rain gear and something warm in case we needed an extra layer. We drove to Columbus arriving 90 minutes early. We love to see the teams practicing and we have to be sure not to miss anything. We parked at the Expo center and took the shuttle to the stadium. Once there I bought a pretzel to munch while we watched the pregame festivities. The teams practiced and went back to their locker rooms. The exciting thing is when OSU takes the field the team joins arms and closely pivots to face the opposition as a human block then they rush to center field. Of course the Illini rushed the Bucs and it looked like some mischief was afoot. It didn't look good for sportsmanship.

Once the field cleared it was time for my favorite tradition when we heard the announcer bring in the OSU band. The drums, the crisp march and the band poised on the field and playing OSU songs is awesome. Then my absolute favorite part - Script Ohio. It doesn't get any better than this. Aren't I gushing like a teenager! Oh my it is sublime to experience this in a stadium that holds thousands of people. It also feels pretty special to think of my mom and dad watching the game when dad was an intern. The story is when he had to go back to the hospital the staff would hang a sheet out of a window as the signal for him to return. He would hurry back to take care of patients. Dad has always loved football and he and Mom are avid fans. They have been season ticket holders for decades.

As you may have heard the game was wet. We experienced some drizzle and suited up in our rain gear. This lasted through the first two quarters. We didn't leave and watched the first quarter interception by OSU and the awesome defense shutting out opportunities for the Illini to score. Just before the second half the sky opened up and buckets of water came down. Literally buckets. It was so wet we repaired to the under stadium area to dry off and change to our warms. We discovered Lee had a big hole in the back of her rain hood and her jeans were soaked. My rain jacket turned out to not protect against torrents so we were a little wet. I told Mom and Dad the last time I was that wet was when I was born. We were joined by others escaping from the rains. I walked around the crowds and thought of the people trapped in the Saints stadium during Katrina. No one was ill or starving at the 'shoe but it gave me a brief glimpse of masses of humanity in close quarters. We enjoyed a hot dog and waited for the end of half-time. When we thought it wasn't raining we found our seats and cheered through the middle of the fourth quarter. At this point it began raining and we decided it was time to get the shuttle.

Sitting in the shuttle wet and happy, reliving the game and the pageantry Lee asked her daily question - "What about dinner?" . I thought and said I had an idea. We would not stop for dinner but drive home and I would make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Her look of delight told me this idea resonated with her. So we drove home and once there I got busy. I assembled a quick homemade tomato soup and assembled grilled cheese and bacon to grill. Sitting in front of the fire and sipping on soup and eating toasty sandwiches was really wonderful. The perfect ending to a perfect game and a drippy day!

Homemade Tomato Soup

2 T. olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion cut in small dice
1 28 oz can Muir Glen Fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 fat free can of chicken broth
1 minced clove garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 C whipping cream

In a deep pot heat oil and saute onions until transparent. Add garlic and stir to cook for one minute. Add the broth and tomatoes and heat. Add thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender or food processor process the soup until it is mostly blended but not totally. I love about a third of the diced tomato to remain in diced form. Remove from heat and slowly add cream while stirring. Heat to a simmer on medium heat. Turn off the heat and serve.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tex Mex Squash Casserole

This casserole was one of the hits of the party. One of my favorite blogs is The Homesick Texan. Lisa the blogger writes of Texas food and family as a Texan transplanted to New York City. Her recipes are awesome and delicious. Growing summer squash we have lots to use and experiment with. Favorite ways to prepare squash include a saute with dill and butter, a southern cheesy gratin and this new take on squash with southwest flavors. It is so worthy of a try. I'd serve it with a salad with avocados and some Mexican Chocolate cake.

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole

2 yellow squash and 2 zucchini cut in coins (4 Cups)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 T. butter
1 can of Ro-Tel drained
1/4 C diced green chiles like jalapenos
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 C chicken or vegetable broth
2 T. flour
1/2 C half and half
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C cilantro, chopped
2 C. total grated pepper jack and cheddar cheese
2 C crushed tortilla chips
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Heat the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add squash, onion and jalapeno and saute until the onions are translucent and the squash is soft (10 minutes).

Add garlic and spices including salt and pepper and cook for a minute. Stir in the flour and and cook until a light-brown paste forms (1 minute)

Add the broth and tomatoes and stir until the mixture thickens which should take only a couple of minutes. Add half and half, sour cream and cilantro and remove from the heat.

In a greased casserole, layer the bottom with the tortilla chips. Pour the squash mixture on top then cover the dish with cheese.

Cook for about 30 minutes uncovered or until brown and bubbly.

Serves 6-8.

I love casseroles and this is really great. The whole brown and bubbly concept just has such a wonderful picture of home and coziness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Week in Review

Last week was the Texas Barbecue and it was a great success. We had lots of very fun people, beer, sangria, corn hole and food and music. Lee played her ipod with the Texas music all afternoon into the evening. Our guests are so nice. Everyone brought something to say thank you. We received wine, flowers, cookies, delicious candies and home made peach preserves. That's pretty awesome. Such wonderful people. They are the best. Plans are afoot for next year already! Lee's brother promises to appear from Texas so it will be ramped up a notch or four!

The food was really great according to the guests. I thought so too but I don't want to brag. My sister and brother in law came and they became kitchen maevens helping to carve slices of juicy smoked brisket. Sue helped put things out and generally organized the display of foods. I had adapted lots of recipes from the Homesick Texan blogsite and there wasn't a whole lot left of anything. I made a vegetarian entree that the carnivores consumed rapidly. I'll share the recipe later. One of the big hits was Lee's fabulous pinto's. I think some people looked at the big pot of beans with pieces of salt pork and wondered but they bravely had some and loved them. Lee picks through her beans then soaks them overnight and drains and rinses them in the morning. She covers the beans with water had 1/2 a large chopped onion, adds a chunk of salt pork cut into pieces, ketchup, a jalapeno and simmers them until they are tender. The beans retain their shape and are served drained with a slotted spoon. They were very popular. These are beans that are tender but not beans awash in bean gravy like you'll see in a Mexican restaurant. Miss Lee is very particular about the beans.

Corn hole was popular with the brand new Dallas Cowboys cornhole games. Our friend Mary of the MeMa's painted and decorated the set and it was lovely. Passionate corn hole players played with a variety of teams. Finally sister Sue and brother in law Tom took on grandma Nancy and grandson Alec Rogers. The Fords given 25 years of corn hole playing and recent practice for a week actually won! It was fun.

The youngest guest also came the farthest. Jamie Lian Alduino newly adopted Chinese daughter of my boss John and his wife Amy is just a year old. She got much attention and had a fun time. She even ate the food despite the fact I put some plain choices aside for her. Evidently she enjoys Texas mustard potato salad and Mexican fruit with lime. She is practicing standing. She did however have lots of arms to hold her and new friends to make.

The worst guest was my dear beagle boy Jack. At one point he buried his face in a bowl of seasoned oyster crackers and chomped away! Lee and I were reviewing the party later in the evening and she said "Jack was dreadful. Wasn't it nice?" She told me that he had sinned and after everyone seeing his trangression Sue offered the crackers to people who viewed the crime. I don't think there were takers. I didn't know if I thought he was being dreadful -just more being a beagle - which he happens to be. Lee explained when we first moved in Jack could not be trusted and was always into everything. Jack stories can go on for hours. He's aging and hasn't been really well until our alternative vet decided he needed to be on a new course of antibiotics. He's more perky and appears to have bounded back from the edge of death. In Lee's mind it was great to see Jack being Jack that is dreadful Jack. Future guests fear not. New crackers will be served and placed out of the beagle's reach at future events.

So it's a wrap for another year. It's all fond memories except for some pieces of Mexican chocolate cake Lee froze and half a brisket I tucked away for a time when we want to revisit Texas. It was great fun. The people who couldn't make it missed a very fun time. We're making plans for better and even more fun. Maybe we'll honor the German heritage in Texas and my own. We do order our meat from Kreuz after all and they do offer sausage which we served last year and it is also part of barbecue heritage. We'll see and hope to see y'all too. Next year Be There!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Big Texas Barbecue

Today is the day my friends. Four p.m. is the time and fun is the name of the game. For those dear hearts that are far away I thought I would give you the run down for the menu and the fun. First we have about 38 people who may be coming. I say may be because 10 have told us they'll either be late or may not make it. This a collection of people we love and hold dear either by blood or close ties. It's just too fun to bring these folks together. Lee has 8 hours of Texas music on the ipod. She'll play from the docking station in her workshop. She has the workshop spic and span for tours. Hers is the only workshop I know with its own art collection of two wall quilts, a Texas flag and pictures. She'll be giving tours.

She built a corn hole game and our dear friend Mary a graphic artist painted and created the Dallas Cowboys theme. It will be awesome. Lee's friends and family from Texas so wish they could be at the party. They have never heard of corn hole but would love to play anyway. They want to gather with us to listen to music, eat drink, talk and laugh. Lee purchased a variety of Texas beer for the occasion. She has four different kinds with names like A Little Sumpin, Longboard, Lawnmower, Independence, Bombshell Blonde Ale, Austin lager and Freestyle. She'll also have some Lonestar. I am making my famous sangria, lemonade and iced tea.

My contribution is you guessed it - vittles! I've used a lot of recipes adapted to my own taste from the Homesick Texan blog. She writes and cooks wonderfully. For snacks we'll have seasoned oyster crackers, pico de gallo. Texas caviar, queso and assorted tortilla chips and scoops. I know folks don't think of seasoned oyster crackers as Texas food but Lisa the blogger says they were a part of gatherings at their family occasions. I had some oyster crackers left from my family occasion so I said "why not?" Of course we have brisket 14 lbs to be heated and sliced from the famous Kreuz (Krites) market in Texas. For the Texans for a day vegetarians I made a homemade squash casserole with a southwest flair. The squash is from our garden. So as go togethers Lee is making her pintos. We'll have mustard potato salad, spicy cole slaw with a creamy dressing and radishes and Mexican fruit plate with chile powder and salt. For dessert there will be two Mexican chocolate sheet cakes or sheeeeeet cakes as Lee's brother calls them. So after this we'll be fat as ticks and hopefully satisfied. Yee doggies it will be fun.

So for all of the beloved who cannot make it, I for one will be thinking of you and the great times we've had together. I'll look around and imagine you in the thick of it laughing and talking and sharing this good time. So truly dear ones you will be with me in spirit. Love you and miss you all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer's End

It's the end of summer. Labor day weekend is the official last hurrah. Lee's hurrah hasn't been as loud because she's been pretty ill. Three weeks ago she started complaining about her ears being stuffed up versus down (I don't get it.). After two weeks she finally went to the doctor expecting an ear cleaning. She had an external and inner ear infection in both ears! So armed with medication and steroids she hoped to feel better immediately. Well two days after she started her meds she had her infection transmogrify into the monster upper respiratory infection of all time. She's been very tired but still wanting to help with errands and do things around the house. She's not at death's door so I've been trying to make her feel better through food. Saturday I grilled blackened snapper with a lime butter sauce. We had some delicious late summer corn and a grilled zucchini. It was beautiful so we ate outside. As we were sitting at the table and I glanced left as a hawk flew by. He or she was about five feet from us on her flight path and it was amazing she swooped up to land on a limb overhead. Of course no birds to be seen anywhere. This hawk hangs around a lot because we are avid bird feeders and watchers. Another time, Lee was outside and a hawk landed not five feet away. I was in the house another time when a hawk flew to the house and struck a window. It was quite a hit. The hawk and window both survived.

Yesterday I decided to saute some squash with dill so I went to the garden to see what was there. There was some very nice squash but also some bees. I've heard that the bees are disappearing but they were in my garden. They were dining from the flowers on the basil and broccoli. I wonder what basil honey would taste like? I so love honey. I bought some honey in Glen Arbor, Michigan when we were on vacation. It was thick spun honey and we went through a huge jar with toast every morning. I also smoked pork tenderloin on my smoker. It was just delectable with the rub and smoky flavor in the meat. I added a poblano rice casserole with chihuaha cheese and sour cream. Just to tempt Miss Lee on her survival I made her favorite dark chocolate pie with mile high meringue. It was adapted from a recipe in Bob Appetit. I love it because the crust is stirred together and patted into a pie pan and baked. It is always perfection. The filling is a chocolate pudding made of cocoa and dark chocolate. It takes six egg yolks so I use the whites to make a thick tall meringue. The deep chocolate, the sweet meringue and the slight saltiness of the crust are awesome taste wise. It is Lee's very favorite dessert.

Today it's raining so if rain continues the grilling choices may be very limited. I've been baking up a storm since Friday night. I made black and bleu burgers with homemade buns. After that I made whole grain bagels with salt and a loaf of 10 grain bread. Fall is bread baking time for me. I also am making a starter for sourdough from water, flour and cumin. It is a three day process and of course I ran out of flour so I'll make an early run to pick some up. I asked Dorothy Lane if they would sell me some of their 250 year old starter and they informed me they didn't sell their starter. So I will make my own young starter. Bread is a few days away but I could make an Italian loaf today and make bread salad with some crab and fettucini for dinner. Or I could make some leftover pork tenderloin into pork barbecue to serve on some of those delicious homemade buns. I'll start with asking Lee what she has a taste for. She'll ask her choices and I'll give her some notion of what is available. She'll say I don't care make what you want and I'll be back to pondering.

Happy Labor Day to all who labor or have labored. Everything works because of what you do and the contribution you make to life. My roommate told me she would be laboring on Labor Day. Of course there are people who labor on the national holiday for workers. We count on those people. The shops will close early but some folks won't be home to gather with friends. They'll be protecting our country or keeping people safe, standing by in an emergency or making sure our need for immediate gratification can be met through retail therapy. They'll be keeping things going for the rest of us. Whatever you do if you are retired, just off for the holiday or laboring. Thank you fellow laborers.

Dark Chocolate Pie with Mile High Meringue (adapted from Bon Appetit)


Butter a 9 inch glass pie plate

In a bowl stir together 10 T. melted butter (1 1/3 stick unsalted)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 C sugar
1 1/3 cups flour

Pat the crust into the pie plate and make a decorative crust. Bake it for 18 minutes and cool completely.

Chocolate filling

In a pot bring 2 C of milk to a simmer
In a bowl blend 6 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue), 6 T of cocoa, 4 tsp. cornstarch a dash of salt, 2/3 C brown sugar and 1/4 C milk

Gently pour the milk into the cocoa mixture while stirring continuously to blend. Pour the mixture back into the pan. Cook the mixture over medium heat until it thickens stirring constantly. Add 1 T. rum, 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate and 3 T. butter. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and the mixture is glossy. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and refrigerate for 4 hours.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Beat 6 whites until foamy. Add 1/4 tsp. cream of tarter and 1/2 C. sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Pile the meringue on top of the pie and spread to the edges so that no filling can be seen and the meringue touches the crust. Bake the meringue for 20 minutes. The top will be a luscious brown.

Cool for several hours before serving.