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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Sweet Baby Weenies*

Oh what a wonderful Christmas I had.  I hope everyone else did too.  Even though the initial flurry of Christmas is over, I like to bask in the glow of the Christmas tree until the Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) and reflect on the wonderful cheer that was spread in my little world.

One of the traditions in my family is that every household hosts “Christmas Cheer.”  These little gatherings are an opportunity for everyone in the family to get together to celebrate the season and to see how each household has decorated for the holiday season.  This year there was a newcomer to the mix.  My nephew Paenney has recently moved out of his parents’ house and into one of his own.  What a lovely surprise to get an invitation to his house for some holiday cheer!  He requested a heavy appetizer from the guests in attendance.  Pot luck is always a hit.

I brought some mini reuben appetizers, my mom made queso, my dad made a salami torte, Charlotte made pickle dogs and Mexican roll-ups.

Mexican roll-ups, salami torte, crackers, and pickle dogs. Yum!

 

Queso and chips, mini reubens with rye bread, and the coup de grace…

It was a wonderful variety of food, but the coup de grace was Paenney’s appetizer…

Sweet Baby Weenies.

Sweet, sweet baby weenies.

What could be better than mini hotdogs smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce?  Nothing fancy, everything delicious.  Paenney prepared a whole crockpot full of these delicacies and luckily had enough left over to feed himself for lunch at work the next day.

I salute Paenney for taking on a Christmas Cheer gathering for his family so soon after getting his own residence.  I also salute Paenney’s roommate for putting up with the likes of us for an afternoon.  Paenney also decorated his house to welcome Santa with a tree and plenty of other wonderful decorations throughout the house.

It’s hard to believe my little nephew is on his own, but I’m delighted to see he holds onto the traditions of our family, hosting a Christmas Cheer, and serving his guests the ever popular Sweet Baby Weenies.

Thanks Paenney!

*This is what Paenney calls this delectable treat.  He loves them nearly more than life itself.

It’s not too late to serve the Sweet Baby Weenies – New Year’s Eve will be upon us soon.  Weenies are the perfect way to ring in the New Year!

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MaryAnn’s Pickles

There’s something about someone else’s cooking. Or handiwork. Or home decorating. It doesn’t really matter what it is, if someone else can do something well and you can’t do it at all you appreciate that thing so much more.

Husby made a delicious meat-thing* dinner, and what goes better with hamburger than pickles? And what better pickles are there than MaryAnn’s? She knows how to make pickles and I totally don’t, which makes me appreciate hers that much more. When I take a bite out of these crunchy wonders I know MaryAnn is the most talented cucumber pickling artist since Mr. Gedney.

Look at that savory clove of garlic at the bottom of the jar.  Yum!!!

I could probably learn how to make pickles, but why should I with MaryAnn around? Whenever she offers me a jar of these dilly delights I welcome them with open arms and a watering mouth.  As far as I’m concerned she’s the Pickle Queen and always will be.

Thanks, MaryAnn – keep ’em coming!

* Meat-Thing = a bachelor term used by Husby and Pinky (Husby’s former roommate and my now brother-in-law) for seasoned hamburger spread on a piece of bread, broiled in the oven; served open-faced.

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Harriet’s Drag-The-Lake Chili

It was the 4th of July weekend many years ago when my family arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and were welcomed by the chaos of police everywhere.  Earlier that day the neighbor guy was in his boat on the lake, fell out of his boat, and was unable to get back into the boat.  He was also unable to keep his head above water.

The weather was unseasonably cold that 4th of July weekend and the police and divers were chilled to the bone, so what does Grandma Harriet do?  She whips up a potful of chili.

It’s an easy chili to “whip up,” and because this steaming bowl of goodness is associated with that dreadful day at the lake we named the dish Harriet’s Drag-The-Lake Chili.  It seems sort of morbid, but the recipe is made with ingredients you can have in the pantry in case of an emergency feeding situation, morbid or not.  You don’t have to call it by the name its known by in my family, but you might want to make it.

1 pound hamburger, browned and drained (I add a small chopped onion to this)
1 can chili starter (Bush’s Chili Magic is perfect)
1 can tomato soup
2 cans spaghetti
1 spaghetti can of water
2 tablespoons chili powder.

Mix it all up and simmer for 20 minutes.

Husby and I recently had some on a cold winter day with a piece of warm cornbread on the side.  It really hit the spot, reminded me of Grandma Harriet, and there doesn’t need to be a bunch of officials dragging the lake to make it.

Easy and delicious, drowning neighbor not required.

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Cherry Poutons

Once upon a time I knew a woman who used to love hearing me describe the food I made.  When I would have company I would describe the meals in detail she said it made her mouth water just hearing about it.  I was under the impression she was one of those women who didn’t have much time to cook, what with kids and all their after-school activities and whatnot.  Seriously, her kids were involved in sports and music and any other kind of activity that would keep them occupied nonstop.  I felt kind of sorry for them, the kids, as it didn’t seem like they had any time to just play or hang out, much less eat some decent food.

I remember one year she told me about how she took some time with her youngest child who might have been about ten or twelve years old.  They made some Christmas cookies together.  She was surprised when her son told her that was the best thing about Christmas that year, making cookies.

Tonight I made a batch of cookies that took but an hour to mix, bake, drizzle, and clean up, doing the dishes by hand.  There is no reason to not make cookies, especially at Christmas time.  If you’ve got kids they can join in with the fun.  Or at least lick the bowl.  It takes no time at all.

I never had kids, but I do have Husby.  He stays clear of the kitchen when I’m doing my Christmas baking, but is always available to sample what I’ve made and loves the sweet morsels right out of the oven.  Tonight’s cookies were new.  When he looked at them he announced, “Cherry Poutons!”  The name was a spontaneous labeling of what he saw, no matter that it didn’t mean anything.  Except for the cherry part.  There were actually cherries involved, but neither of us knows where the “pouton” came from.  I don’t even know what the cookies are titled on the recipe, but forever more they’ll be referred to as Cherry Poutons.

Christmas baking makes memories.  Like the boy who will always remember that time he made cookies with his mom.  Like a new favorite that will be known as Cherry Poutons.  I hope the tradition of baking Christmas cookies never dies and that none of us are ever too busy to treat ourselves to the sweetness that comes with the season.

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Dive Night is a semi-monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of “dive.” Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We’ll find the interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Casual attire required. A sip of beer or wine doesn’t hurt either.

If you live in St. Paul, MN or any of the surrounding areas you’ve probably heard of Mickey’s Diner.  The original is right downtown.  There’s another Mickey’s over there on West 7th away from the bustle of the city but with the same character.*  It’s called Mickey’s Diner (By Willy).  I’m not sure who Willy is.

Mickey’s is the epitome of the word “diner.”

When we arrived there was hardly anyone in the place.  One other couple, to be exact.  The staff consisted of a cook and a bus person.  The building is old and not exactly spotless, but not dirty enough to make me scared of eating there.

Classic Coca-Cola light fixtures.

I love diners with a counter like this. This is pretty much the extent of Mickey’s. The counter on one side of the aisle and small booths on the other. Quite cozy.

Mickey’s even has a bakery case. I didn’t try any of the bakery items, but they looked pretty good. Especially the muffins. I have a thing for muffins.

I thought it was pretty ironic that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was on the TV.

We laughed when we saw the Side Orders on the menu.  Whole pieces of meat.  As a side!  I guess it makes sense if you’re getting eggs and you want a steak with them, doesn’t it?  It seemed pretty funny to us though.  Funny ha-ah, not funny peculiar.  Well, I guess it was peculiar too, at least compared to the other places we’ve been.

Four- and eight-ounce steaks as a side.  Or how about a pork chop?

Finally, after consulting with Sam the cook we decided what we wanted.  We started out with an order of onion rings, just because we’re accustomed to getting an appetizer when we’re out for Dive Night.  The rings?  Okay.  I’m not an onion ring connoisseur, but I thought they were pretty average.

This plate of rings was shared by four of us and there were some left when we were done with our meal. Not outstanding by any means, or else we would have been fighting over the last ones.

We ordered our food and Sam the cook got to work.  I like it when you can see the cook making your food.  That’s called “transparency” in the business world.  I feel much better knowing the cook didn’t spit in my food on the off-chance he took a disliking for me.  Of course Sam was of such superior character he would never spit in the food no matter what his personal feelings.

Sam.

Ray had the most unusual meal of the bunch.  It was called One-Eye Jack and was composed of ham, cheese, and egg on toasted bread.  There was a hole cut in the bread/egg, which is what makes the “one eye.”  He got a side of hash browns with that and they looked really good.

Husby had a patty melt with a side of beans.  He said the sandwich was “fine,” but the beans were not great.  They were overdone, cooked and heated up in the microwave.

Husby’s patty melt. It looks pretty good to me – that bread is grilled to perfection.

Tomato-saucy baked beans. I don’t like baked beans anyway, so these look kind of disgusting to me. Husby didn’t like them much.

Ruthie had the Classic.  A cheeseburger with hash browns and some Mulligan stew.  I had the same thing only I got french fries with my hamburger.  The fries were pretty good.  The hamburger was too little for the bun and the cheese was pretty lame.  The menu listed three types of cheese so I asked Sam if I could have Swiss cheese.  He said they have “white” cheese.  He said, “Swiss cheese is white, but our white cheese isn’t Swiss cheese.  We only have the white cheese.”  Whatever.  It was laid lopsided on my burger so only half of it was topped with “white” cheese.

Ruthie’s Classic.  It looks like her cheese is more centered on the burger than mine was.  Those hash browns again ~ boy they look good.

The Mulligan stew was something else too.  Something not so good.  It was luke warm and the potatoes were raw and hard.  I couldn’t eat it.

Um, no.

Overall the food at Mickey’s was pretty bad.  Edible, but nothing I’d go back for.  However, there is something I would go back for.  The malt.  Oh my, what a glorious, thick, whipped cream covered malt.

My chocolate malt. The only thing that would have made this better is if it were served in an old-fashioned soda glass.

By the time we were finished with our meal there were some more people in the diner.  They all sat at the counter and no one spoke.  It was kind of creepy.  But Sam the cook was a delight even though the food he served was mediocre at best.  Seriously though, it’s totally worth a trip for the malts (shakes too).  They come in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  Yum!

Sam the cook.

* This review is not intended to reflect the food, service, or atmosphere of the original Mickey’s Diner in downtown St. Paul.

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There is nothing more frustrating than insomnia, especially if you have to get to work by 6:00 a.m. the next day.  A bout of insomnia on the weekend, however, is a whole different matter.

One weekend I had a really weird pattern of sleep, but I used it to my advantage.  The project: spice cabinet.  The hour: midnight.

Our spice cabinet was a mess.  I tried to keep it organized and put things in alphabetical order, but in so many other ways it was complete chaos.  Spices were stored in different sized containers, because you know buying in bulk is less expensive than buying those little containers every time.  But then when you fill the little plastic container you bought in the first place with the bulk spice you just bought, the bulk stuff doesn’t all fit in the small container, so you have to store the residual bulk stuff somewhere.  More than likely it’s stored somewhere in back where you forget you have it and then when it’s time to fill up that little container again and you know you have some bulk stuff stored somewhere you can’t find it, so you buy another bulk packet of the spice.  This happens with lots of spices, so the cabinet gets fuller and more disorganized as time goes on.  I’d had it.  It was time to change.

The first thing I had to do was empty the cabinet completely.  I was full of energy, even though it was midnight.  The only thing I had to concern myself with was keeping kind of quiet as Husby was fast asleep upstairs.

When I saw the nasty shelf liner I decided to replace that too.  I had some nice green and white liner down in Craftland, which was great because I didn’t want to put the project on hold until I got some shelf liner.

Also lucky for me I was stocked with quite a few spice jars, thanks to Husby.  So I went to work transferring all the spices to same-sized spice jars.  Yes, I had some leftovers, but I organized those all nice and gave them a shelf of their own.  So when I run out of the spice I know exactly where to go to see if I have some more.

The new overflow shelf. Two unopened jars of meat tenderizer? Yes, but there won’t be any more coming into the house until these are gone.

After the shelf liners were in place and the spices were in the jars I got to work printing labels. I wish I could remember where I found the template so I could give some credit. They were the perfect size and just what I wanted.  Once I got them set up and printed out I cut them all out.  Then I stuck them on the jars.  The reason I’m relaying every tiny detail is because if you remember I started this project at midnight.  After each phase of the project I would say to myself, “okay, I’ll just do (the next phase) and then I’m going to bed.”  But I kept going and going.  If you say I was like the Energizer Bunny I might have to push you down.  But it was kind of like that.

Finally everything was done and I could move things back into the cabinet.  Top shelf is the overflow shelf (see picture above).  Second shelf stores the things that I didn’t want to put into spice jars but are used on a fairly regular basis.

Yes, Duck Dynasty fans, that is Phil Robinson’s “zesty” Cajun Style Seasoning. And it’s pretty good.

The very tidy and organized spices. You can’t tell from this picture, but when you look into the cabinet all of the labels are visible, making the search for spices super easy.

And so the clock strikes 5:00 a.m.  Five hours of insomnia put to very good use.  I should spend all of my insomniatic nights like this!  Husby woke up shortly after I finished the project and was very delighted with what he saw.

The finished project. A neat and organized cabinet makes spending time in the kitchen so much more enjoyable.

That’s the story of my spicy night. Too bad Husby slept through it all.

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Dem Bones

I’m the luckiest girl in the world because I have a husband who cooks nearly every single night.  Every.  Single.  Night.  It’s a very wonderful thing and I appreciate it really a lot.  It gives me time to do my crafty stuff.  Or just sit around letting someone cook for me.  If I just sit around letting someone cook for me long enough I start feeling a little guilty.  I can feel guilty for a long time before I actually do something about it.  This weekend I decided to do something about the fact that I never cook.  I cooked.

We had a delicious meal of barbecued ribs.  I browned the ribs under the broiler early in the morning and whipped up a batch of my famous barbecue sauce, which I haven’t made for a long time because I don’t cook much anymore.  After the ribs were browned I cut them up into serving sizes and put them on a bed of sliced onion in the crock pot.  I poured a cup of my barbecue sauce on top of them and plugged in the crock pot.  Because I don’t cook much I realized an hour and a half later than I hadn’t turned the crock pot on.  Merely plugging it in won’t necessarily make it heat up the food.

No matter, the ribs were finished by 6:00 and were absolutely delicious with some au gratin potatoes and coleslaw.  The meat of the ribs came right off the bones and was moist and savory.

As we sat at the table after we’d finished eating I noticed the rib bones on our plates.  The first thing I thought of was I wonder if I could do a craft project with these bones.  I even said it out loud in front of Husby, who kind of laughed and said, “we could put them in the dishwasher and get them all clean, and then dry them in the sun.”  I thought for a minute.  Hmm…

After dinner I Googled “pork rib bone crafts” and I found this:

Bones

I got a little scared because I thought if we actually washed the pork rib bones in the dishwasher then set them out in the sun to dry Jesus might make them alive and they’d sprout little bone arms and legs and smiley faces and start dancing all over the back yard.  That was too much for me to handle.  The bones ended up in the garbage.

Yikes.

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