Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone

About two and a half months ago Kris' best friend Rochelle got Pneumonia it was a bad case. She ended up in the hospital with it, the first two weeks in a medically induced coma. She is much better now but just got out of the hospital on Christmas Eve so it was a long fight for her. Up until about three weeks ago she couldn't eat at all, then she was on the "mechanical soft" and "ground" diets in the hospital. Can you imagine eating pureed bread? On top of that every day that she could eat she had chicken or turkey in some form that is hospital cooked chicken or turkey understand. When she decided that she was getting out of the Hospital on Christmas Eve Kris and I decided that we were going to make her and her family Christmas Dinner.

The menu was easy to plan; she had a tough couple of months so she needed comfort food, not just your regular comfort meal, but one on steroids. The menu:
Glazed Ham and Gravy
Sweet Potato Hash
Scalloped Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Bourbon and Brown Sugar Cranberries

I will probably pick at a few menu items above in the next couple of weeks... today however it is Ham and Ham Gravy that I want to talk about. I have found that a lot of people have never made or even tried ham gravy, which is a crime. Even if you have never had it there is something so warm and wonderful about the thick, salty, silky, slightly sweet sauce that makes you want to just curl up on the sofa and not let anyone near.

"Comforting, How much so?" you ask. Here is a true story, when my ex wife and I were getting to the end of our marriage both of us had found separate places to live, the court papers were about to be filed. She called her best friend and the following conversation took place:

Ex Wife R:
"Mrs. A, it is over... Bryan and I are getting a divorce, it is for real this time, there is no way to fix it."

Mrs. A:
"I don't believe it, you have ruined Easter!"

Ex Wife R: (not expecting that) "What?"
Mrs. A:
"Who is going to make Ham and Gravy at Easter now? We might as well have bologna sandwiches."

I heard this story, more or less the same from both parties involved, I kind of always thought thought it funny that the conversation didn't go something like "Thank God... I don't know why you didn't leave that jerk years ago!" or "What, are you crazy? He is Mr. Wonderful." The conversation went right to my cooking... at least I do something well.

All that being said here is how it is made:

One ham, this time I used a bone in spiral sliced ham but whatever ham I have used the gravy has always rocked.

2 TBS Grey Poupon Mustard

3/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup Honey

Juice from 2 Oranges

3 cups Chicken Broth

Put the ham, open side down in a roasting pan, mix the next four ingredients together into a slimy mixture and pour/spread over the ham. Poor the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with foil and cook, this was a nine pound ham so it was in a 300 degree oven for an hour then a 375 degree oven for another hour. I basted about every half hour. When it is all done take some of the drippings off the bottom of the roasting pan and put into a saucepan (I did about 2 cups) add a little bit of roux and bring to a simmer until thickened.

Taste then just try to put the spoon back for your guests... it takes willpower but once they taste it you will be the cooking superhero that you always wanted to be.

Tenderloin with Black Pepper Cream Sauce

It is one of those things that I do sometimes, it was a Thursday evening, nothing special but I made some Beef Tenderloin. Yes, on an average Thursday evening I made some good old Filet Mignon with a Black Pepper Cream Sauce. It is the kind of sacrifice that my family and I are willing to make for you, my loyal readers.

2 cups of Beef Broth
3 TBS Butter

1 pound of Beef Tenderloin this was actually medallions so I cut 4 Steaks about 3 inches around and 1 inch thick from the tail end of a well trimmed tenderloin

1 small Onion diced
2 cloves of Garlic minced
1 cup heavy cream
3 TBS Brandy
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Salt to taste

This was actually pretty easy, I started by simmering some beef stock for about half an hour (yes it was a store bought stock, low sodium... I need control of the salt) until the two cups reduced by half. When that was almost done I melted the butter in a saucepan then sauteed the Onions and Garlic then I put the Steaks into the hot pan and cooked for about 3 minutes on each side when they were RARE I took them off tented with foil and put then in a plate in the warm oven while I made the sauce.
Deglaze the pan that the steak was cooked in, to do that poor the cup of hot beef broth into the pan and use that liquid to get all the yummy crumbly bits off the bottom of the pan. Then add the Heavy Cream, Brandy and a good amount of Black pepper, how much? I don't know... how much do you like pepper? and a little salt. Let that cook in the skillet over medium heat until it thickens to a nice sauce consistency I think it took a 7-8 minutes; stir very often so that it doesn't burn. When it is as thick as you want poor through a strainer, to get all of the bits of stuff out. This is like liquid silk put a little on your plate then add the steaks. In the background is a stuffed baby artichoke.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dont' Forget... DUCK!

This was on my computer when I got back from a meeting last week. Don't Forget, Duck! Ominous warning? or just a helpful tip to a forgetful co-worker? This post actually begins about two years ago, my Co-worker Scott and I were eating lunch and talking about thanksgiving plans. I was planning to try to cook turkey another way to convince Kris that she liked it, Scott was planning on going duck hunting with his dad. I am not a hunter, I love animals, they are delicious, I have just never had what it takes to get up before dawn and sit in a tree in the freezing cold until a tasty critter walks, flys or scampers by and then do what it takes to take that critter from his happy scampering to my dinner plate. I thank God that other people do.

Anyway Scott started talking about the difference between the ducks that he and his dad got and the domestic guys that I am used to and said that he would bring me back a duck from his trip that year. He didn't... he said that he forgot. He went on hunting adventures a few more times and never remembered to bring one back. Until this year! he did bring back a wood duck that he got. The note on my computer keyboard was to remind me to bring it home before someone else took it from the freezer.

I looked around for some recipes for wild duck that would bring out the natural flavor, most of them seemed to be focused on hiding the flavors. Look at this recipe it is like Mole on Crack it has so many steps, could there be more stuff on it? If you want to cover up the flavor so bad why not get the chicken. Ok, I am a bit of a hypocrite here, the last time I made duck breast I spent two days making a sauce to go with it, but this time I wanted to keep it simple, you know new dish real flavor.

I made it as simple as I could:
1 small Wood Duck killed and cleaned by your friend
1 Apple sliced
1 Onion sliced
1 handful of Cranberries
1 cup of Red Wine
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 then rinse the duck off and stuff most of the Apple, Onion and Cranberries inside what doesn't fit put in the bottom of the roasting pan (in this case a loaf pan) rub the outside with salt and pepper place the duck, breast side up, in the pan and then poor wine over it all. Roast for about an hour basting every few minutes until done.

I was going to make wild rice for this but found I was too lazy to go to the store and get some so I took the drippings from the roasting pan and tossed them with pasta... Actually this might have been better. It went well with the duck with out taking anything away.

I was the only one in the house that was willing to try this one, well me and the dog (on the plus side I think she will love me forever now). I have to say that Scott was right wild duck has almost nothing in common with it's domestic counterpart. The meat more firm (this guy actually flew around) and you could really taste the North woods of Michigan. Would I make it again? In a second, well more likely in two years when I can get another duck out of my friend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sausage Cheese Biscuits

As we are getting closer to the big day, Kris and I are having trouble getting some of the needed things done. It is hard to wrap gifts when your kids are stuck to you like gluesticks. Plus they never sleep, actually Miss Lu has been sleeping pretty well lately but doesn't fall asleep until after 9:30 most nights, I know that it doesn't sound hard to wait her out, but I get up a 4:00 most mornings and Mr. Man has taken to waking every 20 minutes between midnight and 3:00 am with bad dreams so he wakes everyone (except Miss LU) by SCREAMING "THAT'S MY CAR, YOU CAN'T HAVE IT," "SISSY STOP" or "NO, I WON'T EAT THAT!" So wrapping gifts while they are asleep is not easy since neither of us can stay awake long enough. So in the effort to leave Kris at home alone for at least a little bit I took Miss Lu and Mr. Man to the Mall to shop for her birthday present (Kris' birthday is Jan. 1).

Understand that this means going to Woodfield Mall the Saturday before Christmas, For those of you that aren't from the area, Woodfield Mall was the biggest indoor mall until the Mall of America was built in Minneapolis. To me though Mall of America is more of an attraction than a mall, Woodfield is a 2.7 million square foot Goliath boasting nearly 300 stores on 3 or 4 levels (hard to count) connected by a bizarre series of ramps, stairs and escalators. It is a nightmare on a good day. So in order to take squawky and the shopper there I needed enough breakfast to get me through. I had some sausage in the freezer so I made Sausage Cheddar Biscuits with egg.

Preheat the oven to 450 then here is how the biscuits go:
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3 TBS Butter softened but not melted
1/2 cup Milk (or a little less)
4 oz of Sausage browned
1/4 cup shreaded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 tsp Fennel Seed
Brown the Sausage (if there are casings discard) add the Fennel while cooking when done set aside. Sift the Flour, Baking Soda and Salt together then add the softened Butter. Using two knives cut them together until well mixed... I have to say here, Grandma's cookbook aside, I get bored and use my fingers to evenly mix the ingredients. When well blended form a bowl in the center and add the cooked Sausage and Shredded Cheese then about half the milk. Stir until well blended and add the rest of the milk a little at a time until it is just moist enough to pull from the side of the bowl and form a nice ball.

Now I am a sucker for Drop Biscuits so I stop while they are almost blended and pull the dough out about 2 TBLS at a time and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet then bake for 12-14 minutes.

I had two biscuits topped with a very easy egg, yes the drink you see above is what you are thinking. By the way on the way home from our adventure I think I made the comment to the kids that will win me the father of the year... "If you two will be good in the Liquor Store daddy will buy you a bag of M&Ms for the trip home."

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Pork Tenderloin

While my in laws were here I made the Risotto that I talked about recently, here is the Pork Tenderloin that I made to go with it. Pork Tenderloin is one of my "go to" dishes for company it is quick, easy and inexpensive and like chicken it takes on the flavors that I decide to give it. I never cook it past medium then it is juicy and pink inside so the texture is great. This time I marinated the Pork Tenderloin in a Balsamic Vinegar Glaze then cooked it on the grill.

This is exactly the reason that Kris and I went on the hunt for a gas grill in the fall. So that I could step outside on a day when the high was lower than 20 degrees and still make a good dinner for all.

2 Cloves of Garlic Minced
1/2 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup of Olive Oil
splash of dry Red Wine
some Fresh Thyme
1 TBL Honey

I marinated for about 1 hour in the refrigerator then another half hour on the counter while I made the Risotto. When it was time to cook I did the two Tenderloins on the grill for about a total of 10 minutes turning twice. I took them off and let them rest (tented under foil) for about 5 minutes while I got out the serving dishes. I sliced them about 3/4 of an inch thick and served.

I have been trying to take a good picture of this dish during the cooking process for a while, I would take the pictures... Look at them, edit them but I couldn't quite figure out why they were unusable they just were. Like I said this is one of my "go to" dishes so I have made some variation of it 8-10 times since I started this blog and haven't talked about it because I didn't like the photos. A couple of weeks ago a blog that I read regularly said the reason clear as a bell (I have changed it a little to fit my situation) they look like grilled poop. I decided on this picture instead of the others it is a little more dramatic anyway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A little more about fun than food

So last week and this weekend were a little busy at work. On Friday we were serving about 2300 people a Prime Rib dinner; well really it was Prime Rib, Parmesan Crusted Tilapia or Butternut Squash Ravioli but face it most people are in it for the mammal. Of course these were served with all the appropriate side dishes. So I was at work for a little over twelve hours on Thursday getting ready, then longer on Friday. Unfortunately I drew the short straw and had to work the weekend too, I have mentioned that weekends involve getting up at 3:12 am to be on the South side of Chicago by 5:00. Add to it this was the weekend that my in-laws were coming for dinner on Saturday overall it was busy.

Ok, so everything went well on Friday at work, I left at about 8:00 pm and headed home where I pored some Vodka on Ice, gave Kris, Miss Lu and Mr. Man a kiss and went to bed. When I got to work on Saturday morning my office was in worse shape than usual. Seriously I am not a neat freak by any means but this was a bit much even for me, so I got out a shovel and rake and tried to finish taking care of the Friday mess in my office and the kitchen.
Actual picture of my office at 5:00 am on Saturday
When I got home we started planning dinner for my in-laws... understand that this is actually the fun part of the day for me. I picked up Pork Tenderloin and started marinading it then made the Risotto from my last post. It was a very good evening... well afternoon, they are on Eastern time and I was a little tired. After Christmas presents for the kids (then helping us out some too) and dinner my in laws left for Arizona. I sat on the sofa for a few minutes and quickly fell asleep at 7:00 pm.

When I got home from work on Sunday Miss Lu and Mr. Man were WIRED FOR SOUND the only thing to do was build snow creatures. We are known through the neighborhood for our snow sculpted antics...

Miss Lu during our snow painting adventures last year

anyway we made some snow creatures then came in for Hot Cocoa. Nothing complicated we had some regular Swiss Miss Cocoa with just a touch of Triple Sec and Brandy (1 oz of Brandy 1/2 oz Triple Sec 1 cup of Cocoa) Well Kris and I did, the kiddos had milk in theirs.

This winter's first snow beast

Monday, December 14, 2009


My in laws were coming through town a couple of days ago, they were on their way from the U.P. of Michigan to Arizona where their other daughter lives. Like so many people that live in the tundra areas of the US (where there only seems to be about 3 hours of sunlight each day) they travel during the dark months. Having a child in Arizona (high temp 70 degrees today) works well for them. Having us in Chicago is at least on the way, they said they were coming to visit with us for a couple of hours and I wanted to make dinner. I like to make a good meal for guests. Personally, I think they were coming to make sure that we were keeping the bathroom clean enough to meet their standards. After their last visit they "joked" that if they ever found the bathroom, the one that my father in law completely re finished for us on their last visit, to be a mess they were going to repo the sink. It seemed like a joke, but Kris and I both have our doubts...

I have to admit that I have always been a little afraid to make Risotto... I know such a classic dish but I have never made it. Every time that someone I know has made Risotto they come from the kitchen telling tales that almost compare cooking Arborio Rice to killing a wild boar with the same wooden spoon. Turns out it is not hard at all, there are a few steps but really all you need to do is be near the stove for about 25 minutes.

Here it goes:
4 cups Chicken Broth

1 cup Water

1 pound of Asparagus trimmed then cut into 1 1/2 pieces

1 tsp Olive Oil

3 TBS Butter

10 oz package of Portobello mushrooms stems removed and sliced

1 small Onion chopped

2 cloves of Garlic minced

1 1/2 cup Arborio Rice
1 cup of White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
Parmesan Cheese

Bring Broth and water to a boil, add asparagus and cook until crisp (3 minutes or so) then transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Keep the broth over low heat so it stays hot.

Put the Olive oil and one TBL of butter into
a 4 quart saucepan and heat, add the sliced mushrooms and saute until done, set them aside in a bowl.

In the same sauce pan melt the remaining 2 TBL Butter then add the Onions and Garlic saute until soft (3-4 minutes) then add the Rice cook until it is all hot (maybe a minute or two) then add the white wine and cook until absorbed, this part goes pretty quickly.
After the wine is absorbed start adding the broth first a cup at a time then in 1/2 cup increments stirring frequently and allowing each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep adding until rice looks smooth and creamy about 20 minutes. There should be some leftover broth, save that in case you need that to thin it a little when it is time to serve.

Remove from heat add Asparagus, Mushrooms salt and pepper (to taste) 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and mix together then put into your serving dish. If it is a little stiff add some broth to thin. Garnish with a little more Parmesan Cheese and serve. I served this with Grilled Pork Tenderloin (post to follow). Actually this was really easy dish, do not be afraid, and the results are great!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lace Cookies

Ok there is something special when there is a shell to crack with your dessert creme brule is wonderful not only because of the smooth creamy custard, but the burnt sugar shell makes it a little like opening a present. Today, one of those many days off that I have between now an 2010, I made lace cookies. Kris described them best when I gave her one, "it's like peanut brittle only it tastes good." Like my lovely bride, I have never been a fan of the church craft fair peanut brittle that for some reason people thought was an actual treat when I was a kid. It was always thick heavy, tooth breaking hard and filled with the awful Spanish peanuts that my grandmother's friends favored.

When these cookies came out of the oven they looked like little bits of stained glass and tasted as light and delicate as the sunshine that passed through them. They are airy and crisp with the sweet crunch of caramelized sugar with the light touch of shaved almonds. However these cookies weren't going to be served alone (though they are really good, I stashed about 10 away for me later) these were to be made into crispy sugary bowls for Ice Cream... chocolate of course. .

Start by heating the oven to 350 then mix the ingredients:
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds
pinch of kosher salt

Put the first four ingredients into a small sauce pan over a low flame and stir until smooth, remove from heat and add the flour, almonds and just a pinch of salt then stir until blended. Here is where this recipe turns cool! let the batter cool for a few minutes then take it out a scant tablespoon at a time and put them two at a time on greased parchment on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet into the oven for about 7-8 minutes, I found it worked better if I left them in a little longer than I thought I should. The cookies will be about 5 inch amorphous shapes; thin, lacy and delicate when done.

To make them into cookies take them out of the oven and set aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle set them aside on another sheet of parchment to harden. To make them into the delicate dessert vessel that they were meant to be pull them off the greased parchment when they are still too hot to handle and form them over the bottom of a small bowl (these are 4 ounce tempered glass dishes for custard) then let them harden there. If you get a little burn just suck it up it is worth it in the end.

These are painted with chocolate... I know you were just thinking that these couldn't possibly get any better, but they do... I melted a Hershey's Chocolate Bar and 1/2 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips in a double boiler until very soft then used a fork to drizzle one of God's perfect foods on top of the lacy bowls and the cookies that I set aside for myself. Here they are.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have gone back and forth about this particular dish. It almost seems too easy to post, I mean after this what is next "Bryan's buttered toast"? I can see that one... "sometimes I top it with Cinnamon Sugar and if the mood is right Strawberry Jam! Serve with fresh hot coffee; to make that start with cold water..." well you get the picture.

In the end I thought that what makes this a great recipe is the simplicity of it. When I got the Waffle Iron several year ago I didn't use it that much because most of the recipes that I found for waffles involved whipping Egg Whites into soft peeks then gently folding those into a batter then gently spreading that on a hot waffle iron. Here is one of my idiosyncrasies, I don't mind spending 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon making lamb stock from lamb bones, mirepoix and an aromatic spice bundle. In fact I find things like that to be relaxing, almost meditative. However, the idea of spending 7 minutes on a Sunday morning whipping egg whites into soft peaks is somehow unfathomable to me. (I know it doesn't make sense).

I spent some time trying different recipes for waffles some fell flat (literally) some were rubbery, some only aspired to be rubbery but this one really works. It is simple, quick and comes out fluffy and has a nice flavor:

2 cups all-purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
2 TBLS Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 cups Milk
2 Eggs
2 TBLS Melted Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

In a large bowl sift the dry ingredients together then add the the Milk, Eggs, Butter and Vanilla. Poor into a hot Waffle Iron and close when the stem stops shooting out of the waffle iron check. Golden Brown = Done, serve immediately.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

History Lesson

I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but I am kind of a nerd I know it is hard to believe but true. I enjoy all kinds of food related nerdy things. I can talk about the history of different foods or dishes and bore normal people to death. Once when I was bored at work I tried to write down the 100 ways to prepare eggs (the 100 pleats on a togue represent the 100 ways to prepare eggs) I got to 87 not bad, yeah my boss got her money's worth out of me that day. I am not kidding here on the book case next to my bed there are no fewer than 25 Culinary books, from cook books and text books food related short stories and even poetry. Apart from occasionally boring my co-workers I keep most of my nerdy foodie trivia to myself.

Today (December 5th) however is a very important day in the history of not only food (ok beverage) but an important day in the history of America and keeping the freedoms that all of us have earned. The very Freedoms that make up the foundation of our fine country were restored! On December 5th, 1933 our representatives cast their votes to ratify the 24th amendment to the Constitution. The sole purpose of the 24th amendment was to overturn the 18th amendment commonly known a prohibition.

Prohibition started in January of 1920 when the transport or sale of intoxicating beverages became illegal in the U.S. a law that arguably brought the organized crime organizations together and corrupted law enforcement in many cities. Thus the Capone era of the mafia was born. Bootlegging, Moonshine and "bathtub gin" became common place along with the transport and sale of beverages without tariffs and taxes.

Since it was illegal to buy, sell and transport people started making their own. Some California vineyards sold what they called a "wine brick" a non alcoholic beverage base that carried this dire warning on the back "Do not dissolve the contents of this package in one gallon of warm water then place in a cupboard for 20 days because it would turn to wine"
Canadian Club on the Rocks
So take a moment today and raise your glass of Canadian Club (Capone's drink of choice) and be thankful that we live in America after 1933.

Side note this was a fun post to research, the picture at the top of the page is all real (Red Wine, Brandy, Vodka Martini, Bourbon Manhattan, Margarita) and once you pour it well you can't put it back so...

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Tonight we were hanging out in the kitchen/dining room doing projects. Kris picked up gingerbread house and gingerbread train kits. Thank God that they make the kits now, a little bit of glue like frosting, put them together and you are ready to stick 200 Smarties to the roof. Fun way to spend the evening. We were thinking that if we did projects from the time Miss Lu got home until bed time we would wear her out however it just seemed to wind her up. As long as we were working on the dining room table and were decorating the gingerbread I thought we could build our own Calzones too.

My pizza dough (old French bread dough recipe) is one of the few yeast bread recipes that I am fully comfortable with. Years ago I managed a pizza place and we made about 50 pounds of this recipe every day. So I got used to it and still use it, it is versatile and easy to handle. I doubled the Pizza Dough recipe that I have used before:

2 cups of All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 TBL Sugar
2/3 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 cup of water with a tsp of vinegar in it
2 tsp dry active yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the 2/3 cup warm water and let sit until it starts to activate (gets foamy at the edges) while you are waiting mix the dry ingredients together, then add the activated yeast water, the other cup of water and vinegar; mix with dough hooks for 2-3 minutes until well blended. It should form a nice ball and pull from the sides of the bowl well. Give it a quick spray with vegetable oil and set aside. This takes about 2 hours total so plan your time, after the first hour have a kid pound the dough down, turns out that part is fun... or kneed it for a few seconds to deflate and set aside for another hour.

When the time comes divide into 4 dough balls (actually I had enough left over to make 5 bread sticks too which finished faster than the calzones so I had my appetizer and didn't share). Roll them out and let people stuff their own, for stuffing choices we had:

Marinara Sauce (store bought)
Italian Sausage
Gypsy Peppers
Portobello Mushrooms
Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese

Miss Lu Becoming the expert at this sort of thing

There is no science here, let the kids fill them with what they like. By the way... very hard for me to give up control of food, but worth it, usually even Miss Lu will eat what she cooks. When they are topped fold the dough over and pinch shut. I brushed the top with a little garlic butter and baked all 4 in an oven preheated to 375 for 35 minutes until golden brown.

How were they? Here are the comments
Kris, "I was ready to do chicken nuggets if I had to, but this is good, wow!"
Mr. Man, "More"
Miss Lu gave me the wink and the thumbs up.

This one will definitely make it into the regular cycle

Blueberry Muffins

When my in-laws were here last time my mother in-law brought us some wild blueberries I used some that day in the Brandy and Blueberry Demi Glace. It was really good, but only went with the Duck that Kris wasn't going to eat (she and her mom had chicken). Then she suggested that I make something that everybody would eat with the rest of the blueberries that she picked. So I put them into the freezer and left them for weeks because after duck sauce what do you use blueberries for?

I mention often that pastry isn't my thing, it is too precise. I treat a recipe as a list of suggestions that worked well for someone else; when you get to using leaveners of any sort you really have to measure. Against my better judgment I decided to make Blueberry muffins during my few days off. first off I pulled out the old McCall's Cookbook, I assume that I got it from my mom, it was printed in 1963 the cover is mostly intact but the pages are brittle and yellow with age, the binding is altogether gone but it has the treasured flapjack recipe and one for banana bread that I use along with about 5 others inside it's 1000 pages so I can't let it go. Yesterday morning I got up early and followed, to the letter, the Blueberry Muffin recipe. It took about 45 minutes from beginning until I pulled them out of the oven. They resembled hockey pucks in every way but color and couldn't have tasted worse if I had made them using sawdust and other sweepings from the garage floor instead of flour and sugar.

Look at them... hard dry blech!

OK stubborn as I can be when everybody went to bed last night I started searching the Internet for another recipe, you know the kind that you can actually eat. Then I actually had to read reviews because I only have today off before I am expected back at work. Anyway I did find one with 35 reviews and a 4.5 star rating! So again this morning while my coffee was brewing I made another batch of Blueberry Muffins (from

1 1/2 cup sifted Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
1/3 cup (about) Milk
1 cup frozen Blueberries

1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Flour
1/4 cup Butter
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 and grease muffin tin

Mix all ingredient for the topping together your fingers until pea sized crumbly bits form and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients then in a 1 cup measuring cup put 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil, 1 Egg then fill with milk to make 1 cup. Add that to the dry ingredients then mix until almost blended then add the Blueberries and fold.

Fill the Muffin cups to the top (I wanted mine to look like the Muffins at Starbucks only without the $5.95 price tag) then top with the topping blend.

Turns out that is about 4 times the amount of topping that you actually need if you want to cut it back that is fine you do the math, I have done enough with measuring today.

When these came out of the oven they were wonderful, they tasted lovely, the were light and fluffy and the house smelled like it should after baking not like yesterday when the kitchen smelled almost like the day I set the spatula on fire.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I know that I have been crying about working the holiday and weekend... it is just that alarm at 3:12 am is brutal and so unforgiving. The reason I do it is I almost have no work before or after Thanksgiving because I get my holiday and weekend days made up during the days surrounding the holiday so I don't have to be at work again until Friday! The only down side is there are guys working on my roof today. Kris and I noticed that our roof needed to be replaced as soon as the ice thawed this year (around February) so we got around to having someone actually do it today, yes on December 1 they showed up and started stripping my roof. I was just starting my second cup of coffee when the van pulled up and it began.

I have mentioned before one of my favorite day off breakfasts is some form of Chorizo and Eggs, today I was making my typical day-off breakfast listening to the cacophony of four big Polish men poun
ding on my roof. I was cooking the chorizo in one pan at the back of the stove and cooking corn tortillas on one of the front burners. I put a little bit of oil on each one and put them one at a time into a hot pan turned them cooking over high heat until they were crisp. Then I set the tortillas aside and melted clarified butter in the same pan to fry eggs.

I was using my favorite spatula, we all have one admit it, I have had this cheap plastic spatula for at least 10 years it is my "go to" utensil, the one that I grab when I saute anything. When the eggs were done I put the tortillas on my plate, topped them with the spicy chorizo then set the soft fried eggs on top. I set my spatula down where I always do and put some shredded cheddar cheese on top and put the inverted skillet that I was cooking in on top of the plate to hold the heat in and help melt th
e cheese while I got some salsa from the refrigerator.

When I turned around I saw it, on top of the stove my spatula was on fire! I had set it on an open burner and it didn't just melt... flames were lapping up the side of my pasta strainer, and the smoke it was too much... I am just a little broken up, I don't know if I should say a few words to remember it by or hide it before my wonderful wife figures out that I am dumb enough to set a plastic spatula on an open flame.