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The Food Almanac: Monday, December 31, 2012

The Food Almanac: Monday, December 31, 2012

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In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter The New Orleans Menu notes food facts and sayings.

The Sixth Day of Christmas
We are warned of the gifting by good friends of six geese a-laying, a six-pack of Dixie, a hammered aluminum nutcracker, little silver bells, or (according to our own lyrics for the song) six char-broiled oysters. We like the oysters as the appetizer tonight, and are interested in those geese for a big feast tomorrow. But the eggs? Geese don't lay eggs this time of year, no matter what the song says. However, here's a place where you can buy them when the big birds get on with it in springtime. Two goose eggs from free-range heritage geese,$58.

Today's Flavor
Tonight is International Champagne Night. Of course. Champagne is a wine that started out disadvantaged. It comes from the northernmost of the major wine-growing areas of France, where the soil is chalky and infertile. The grapes make acidic wines, distinctly inferior to those of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace.

But the winemakers happened upon a trick. Somewhere in somebody's cave, some bottles bearing wine of dubious purity underwent a second fermentation. That not only created the bubbles that are the hallmark of Champagne, but also softened up the acidity enough to make the effervescent wine delicious. The rest is history.

Champagne is now probably the most profitable winemaking district in the world on a per-acre basis. By international agreement, the name "Champagne" refers only to the wines from that region.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of Champagne is that it goes with almost every food, even hard-to-match stuff like Chinese and Mexican cookery.

Deft Dining Rule #98:
The most expensive bottle of Champagne you have in your possession must be uncorked tonight and poured into at most six crystal glasses. They will make the loveliest sound when they touch at midnight.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Don't point that Champagne bottle at me until you've pulled the cork out!

Edible Dictionary
brut, [rhymes with "foot"], French, adj.--A category of Champagne that is without detectable sweetness. The root of the word connotes sharpness or even roughness, and in other usages implies manliness. It's used in Champagne because the more commonly-used word for lack of sweetness--dry--actually is applied to sweet Champagnes. Even "extra dry" Champagne is rather sweet. As they would be expected to do, the makers of Champagne now distinguish among degrees of brutness. The brutest of all is "brut zero" or "brut nature," which means that no sweet grape juice at all has been added to the wine. These are uncommon; almost all Champagnes, even those marked simply "brut," get a little bit of sweetening before the cork goes in. The trend in Champagne taste has been towards less and less sweetness; a hundred years ago, the sweet versions were preferred. But this is a brut time we're living in.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Champagne is the name of an old time point on the former Southern Pacific main rail line just east of Ontario, a suburb of Los Angeles. A hundred years ago it was just another flat spot in the mountainous desert through which the Sunset Limited and other trains from New Orleans passed en route to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now it's surrounded by Ontario International Airport and an enormous array of shipping facilities. Within couple of miles are at least fifty fast-food places, but no restaurants where you can expect to pop open a bottle of the namesake bubbly wine. Not even on New Year's Eve.

Food Through History
Tonight in 1999, paranoia reigned as all the computers in the world turned over their dates to 2000. Chefs throughout America got ready to shut down ovens should they drop uncontrollably from 400 degrees to 004 degrees, and freezers if they should do the opposite. Nothing untoward happened. Rumors spread, however, that a speck of spinach appeared in the Rockefeller sauce at Antoine's, somebody at Commander's received 300 shrimp remoulade instead of the customary three, and a bottle of Salon Champagne 1978 showed up on the restaurant's computer-generated check as nine cents instead of $900. The absence of computer geeks in restaurants (they were all at their machines, ready to stem a disaster) had no noticeable effect on restaurants at all.

Drinking Through History
Today in 1938, the first device able to detect intoxication was implemented in Indianapolis. Called the drunkometer, its targets were drivers, as you might imagine. But think about it: it was not six years after the repeal of prohibition, and already DWI was becoming a problem. The thing was invented by Dr. Rolla N. Harger.

Food And Medicine
Today is the birthday, in 1816, of Sir William Withey Gull, a British doctor who first gave a name to the condition wherein a patient develops an aversion to eating. He called it anorexia nervosa. May it never affect anyone you like to dine with.

Food On Stage
A musical play called Bubbling Brown Sugar closed on Broadway today in 1977 after over 700 performances. If they ever produce it here in New Orleans, they ought to rename it Praline.

Music To Drink Egg Nog By
This is the birthday, in 1905, of the composer Jule Styne. Among the hundreds of entries in the Great American Songbook that he wrote is the Yuletide classic, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow."

Food Namesakes
Yankee pitcher Catfish Hunter signed a contract today in 1974 for $3.75 million. Actor and bohemian Taylor Mead was born today in 1924. He played the title role in Andy Warhol's Tarzan movie.

Words To Eat By
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow;
The year is going, let him go.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Words To Drink By
"Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them, and Champagne makes you do them."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."--Mark Twain.

Italian Sausage and Spaghetti Squash dinner

I saw this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine and I just knew that I had to try it. I'm normally not a fan of sausage, but there was just something about this recipe that called to me. I love spaghetti squash and the combination of sausage, beans and zucchini seemed too good to pass up. I was right! This recipe is SSSSOOOO good, you definitely need to try it! I ate it for breakfast a couple of mornings, lunch the same days and finally for dinner and never once did I get tired of it! In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to school and make this again. Since I don't like onion or cooked green peppers, I left those out of the recipe.

Pierce holes in the squash. Microwave for two minutes at a time until the skin of the squash is soft. Let cool for five minutes and then halve squash lengthwise and discard seeds. Place, cut side up, in an oven-safe dish. Cook at 350 degrees for an hour.
While the squash is in the oven, brown sausage in a large skillet until meat is no longer pink drain. Add the onion powder and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes . Add the beans, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, zucchini, and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
When squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to separate strands place in a serving dish. Top with sausage mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

This could also be made vegetarian as pointed out by one of my friends using vegetarian chorizo.

The Food Almanac: Monday, December 31, 2012 - Recipes

Zoey and I were at the dollar store today and we found a couple of little things for her dolls (see below), but I also picked up a regular picture frame to make into a bulletin board to hang near her doll desk. While I was at it I snapped some photos to share a little "how to."

Supplies Needed: cork, scissors, adhesive, small frame, two lengths of ribbon and possibly a hole punch and a nail for hanging

It's such a small little touch but it makes her doll play area all the more warm and cozy! :) Now, onto the other little items we scored on our shopping trip.

A red piggy bank that really has an opening on the top for coins. I read an online tip to look at key chains for items that are miniature that you can take off the ring and chain to use for your dolls and that's where I found this. It's perfect! Now Zoey's dolls can start saving up for shopping trips themselves! We snagged this for 50 cents.

We also found a camera for her dolls! When you look through the viewfinder you see photos of dinosaurs and they change when you click the button on the top. :) This was also 50 cents.

We picked up a little mini combed crown that is perfect for when Kristen wants to dress up in her fancy gowns.

And the biggest score of the day? A bowling set of course! This is sooooo cute and I have a feeling there will be many games of bowling up ahead. I wonder which doll will be the best at this activity? :)

It's so fun looking in unexpected places for things for dolls! It's amazing at what you can find!

Time for a little more junk food before you begin that P90X workout resolution!

SHEESH! How did it get to be New Year's Eve already? It kind of snuck up on me. So late in the afternoon, I dashed to the grocery store in my pajamas (covered mostly by my coat), snow boots, and a festive tuke, along with the rest of the inhabitants of the North Country, to pick up party provisions. Of course, our party involves me watching my beloved Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on CNN while my roommate is already snoring over there on the loveseat! Tee hee.

But I did prepare a couple of Tex-Mex recipes that I found on Pinterest for our snacking and dining pleasure this evening. Both were easy to make, though one was just okay and the other was quite good and worth making again.

For our snack, I made something they called "Cowboy Caviar." It's comprised of two cans of (drained) Mexicorn, one can of Ro-tel (regular or hot), two cups shredded cheddar, six sliced green onions, and one cup each of mayonnaise and sour cream. After I combined these things, I tasted it, and it was kind of bland, so I added a teaspoon of both granulated garlic and ground cumin, quite a few shakes of hot sauce, a tablespoon of lime juice, and a can of ranch-style beans. That made it much tastier, though still not anywhere near the best version of this kind of thing. Plus, I didn't like how the shredded cheese gets kind of slimy in the dip. I would not make this again. I would make this or this instead.

Then for our dinner, I made some easy buffalo chicken taquitos that were pretty yummy. The only changes I made were to use the whole package of cream cheese, buttermilk instead of regular milk, and BBQ rub instead of Mrs. Dash and Cajun seasoning. I got a dozen the size of burritos, which were great for a meal, but for an appetizer or party snack, I would use less filling in each tortilla and roll them into skinnier taquitos.

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos
(Source: Real Women of Philadelphia via Pinterest)

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon garlic powder


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The Chic Geek

After seeing loads of recipes for baked donuts using adorable donut pans, I couldn't resist getting my own. These are the first ones I tried with it, and was really happy with the results. They're super soft, fluffy and just the right amount of sweet with a great coating of sugar on the outside.

Maple Cinnamon Donuts (adapted from here)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sugar Coating:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and grease your donut pan (I have this one and really like it, and this recipe perfectly makes one six donut batch you could also make these as muffins, or mini muffins if you don't have a donut pan)

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together the west ingredients until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredient mixture, stir until well combined. Let batter rest for about 5 minutes before filling the pan.

After resting, pour donut batter into the prepared pan. Bake donuts for 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Allow donuts to cool for a couple of minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack.

For the sugar coating, mix together remaining sugar and cinnamon and pour onto a plate. Brush a donuts lightly with the melted butter and then dip it into the cinnamon sugar, turning it over and rolling it to get a good coating of sugar.

Cate Can Cook, So Can You!!

So Dear Readers I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year. I hope that 2013 holds good things for everyone (someone told me that its the years with the even numbers that are the bad ones) - so let's hope 13 is good because it's odd!


Hang in there Cate! I've definitely missed you, and I hope that 2013 looks up for you. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. =)

I have missed you, and I have often checked to see if there was a post. I should have contacted you, but I was too wrapped up in home renovations that I did not. So sorry, I feel as if I have let you down. What a year you have had. My thoughts are with you. I know I am a long way from you but if there is anything I can do. Take care Diane

Just wondered how you are doing. I hope things are coming right for you and that Jack is improving. Thinking of you Diane xx

Hi Cate, just wondering how you and your family are doing. I check your blog every so often, to see if there are new entries. Thinking of you and your son, hope everything works out for you all!

I am getting hungry after reading your amazing blog thanks for sharing.

I have thought about you and wondered what happened. I wish you and your family well. xoxo

I saw Your blog and I thought it had great recipes and awesome pictures! I therefore would like to invite You to our new culinary website which has just started.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May your days be merry

and bright.


. gone to the beach

Exceptional Jasmine Thai Salmon

"That smells disgusting" says one, "That smells really bad" mutters another.

Not great words to hear, as you are rushing to prepare dinner, two hours later than normal, after the day from hell. The mood that I was in this late in the evening, and before the first glass of wine had had a chance to mellow me out - well my response was - "that's too bad, it's dinner - eat it or not. "

Silently I am hoping that it wasn't going to be as bad as they thought it would be, that it was just the underlying smell (the one that they all dislike) of fish sauce, and that once they got over the smell, and tasted the dish, everything would be fine.

Saying that though, this recipe did have a rather unusual element to it - jasmine tea leaves!! Now this is when I began doubting myself, and thinking that the way that this day had unfolded, the meal would probably be a disaster too.

Calm down, take another sip / gulp of wine, and keep on cooking.

Given that I was running so late getting this dinner underway, the saving grace of this meal was how incredibly simple, and quick it was to make.

I found the recipe in a little supplemental cook book that came with a Delicious magazine several months ago. In it was an advertisement for Dilmah Teas - entitled Tea Gastronomy. The picture below shows the tea bags used in the recipe.

I did make a couple of changes - I will highlight what I have done.

Exception Jasmine Thai Salmon
From an advertisement for Dilmah Teas in a Cookbook called Seasonal Flavours - from Delicious Magazine

Serves 4

2 x Dilmah Fragrant Jasmine Green Real Leaf Tea bags
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs oil
1 tbs brown sugar
4 x salmon fillets
1/3 cup roughly chopped cashews

snow peas, finely shredded
english spinach leaves
lebanese cucumber slices

Sesame oil drizzled over the salad.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear the teabags open and sprinkle the tea leaves into a frying pan. Stir in the water, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, oil and brown sugar. Bring to the boil over medium high heat. Simmer for 1 minute. *

Add the salmon and cook each side for 30 seconds. Transfer the salmon and liquid to a baking dish and bake for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. **

Combine the salad ingredients, drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with the salmon. Sprinkle with the chopped cashews.

* I actually simmered the liquid for several minutes - I did wonder if I was in fact stewing the tea, but it worked out OK. I wanted to get the sauce to a little thicker consistency.

I didn't put the liquid with the salmon in the oven - basically because I wasn't reading the recipe correctly. Cooking for 5 minutes still left the middle of the salmon quite raw, so if you like it cooked through - cook for a few (say 3) minutes longer. While the salmon was in the oven I left the sauce simmering on the stove top. When I served the meal, I poured a little of the sauce over the top of the salmon, and served the rest alongside the dish in a little jug.

The end result, after all those exclamations of disgust at the beginning of the cooking.

This was a beautiful, light, refreshing, healthy meal. Loved by all who ate it.

Definitely one to make again - perhaps I will plug their noses next time.

So Dear Readers is there a particular ingredient that you use that people dislike the smell of, but once in the meal all complaints are gone?

The Seasonal Magpie

I came into my marriage with one cookbook -old faithful - Betty Crocker. But I didn't have a clue how to cook on our meager budget in 1977 so mom brought me a little green paperback that became my "newlywed's food bible", How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week by Jo Ann York. It had shopping tips, how to make a menu, and recipes - I was in high cotton now! Thirty- nine years and six kids later I still use the recipes in that fallen apart old treasure and the menus that I made from it even if it does cost more than $16 a week. This Pork Chop Casserole recipe to this day is my hubby's favorite.

4 pork chops
3-4 potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 apples, peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13"x9" baking pan. Place pork chops in the bottom of the 13"x9" baking pan. ( I always added 1 cup water in the bottom of the pan - it makes some nice pan juices to use on the potatoes. Sometimes use apple juice.) Place the sliced potatoes and apples on top of the pork chops. (Occasionally I line the bottom of the pan with sliced onions.) Sprinkle with the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Watch the video: Friday morning forecast August 6th (August 2022).