Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! – Thanksgiving Leftover Edition

November 29, 2010

Since I’ve occasionally used this space to write about Frankenstein-like food concoctions I’ve created that would frighten Rachel Ray, I’ve been thinking it might be time to start a catchily-titled series of on-again, off-again posts about off-kilter, improvised recipes I’ve come up with — maybe something like, GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT!

This installment of GOOD GOD, DON’T EAT THAT! revolves around a typical Thanksgiving dinner leftover: herbed potatoes. You know the kind; potatoes are cut up into small pieces, mixed with a blend of oil and herbs, and baked in the oven. Normal people will typically use red potatoes to do this.

However, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house this year, and my parents don’t qualify as “normal people.” They know less about cooking than I do. My mom’s favorite food is boiled chicken. That’s right, plain boiled chicken. For seasoning, there might or might not be a stray bullion cube casually tossed into the water. One year for my birthday, I got to feast upon an unrisen orange cake. Then there was the Christmas my mom made sugar cookies and forgot to add the sugar. That one worked out okay, though, because my sister had a very bad cold at the time, so we just fed all of them to her since she couldn’t taste anything. She didn’t know their flavor was practically inedible until after she’d eaten all of them. I won’t go into details about The Great Scone Incident of 1981, other than to say that it explains the origin of the mysterious dent in the kitchen floor of their old house. My dad used to try to make something he called “snowballs” during the holidays, except they ended up looking like underwater mines and managed to suck all the moisture out of your mouth in addition to being totally devoid of flavor.

Anyway, the potatoes they baked this Thanksgiving were a mix of red potatoes, white potatoes, yellow potatoes and sweet potatoes. None of these — especially not the sweet potatoes — cook at the same rate. So, some of the potato chunks were a little al dente while others had turned to paste. Also, the herb dressing the potatoes received was a little unorthodox. My parents had purchased some fresh tarragon to use for the potatoes, because that’s what they heard you’re supposed to use. They didn’t use the tarragon, however, because, according to my mom, “It smelled kind of funny, like it was going bad.” It turns out the smell my mom interpreted as rancid was actually the smell of fresh tarragon.

At any rate, at the end of the day we were given a vat of the oddly un-herbed “herbed” potato leftovers to take home. They sat in the fridge until this afternoon, when I decided I’d better use them up. Since they were a little weird to begin with, heating them up in the microwave didn’t seem like the best option. Plus, I had about half of a leftover onion in the fridge, as well as a few corn tortillas that were nearing their expiration date, so I decided to combine all of them.

The potatoes were already herbed and oiled, but I added more olive oil to the pan for the onion. Once it was hot, I added the potatoes and onion and let them sauté/fry for a while. When they were done, I put them into a bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese and let the cheese melt. Then I added the corn tortillas, one at a time to the still-greasy pan, and spooned the potato and onion mixture into them and let them cook some more (and absorb more oil in the process). To each of the “tacos,” I then added a little bit of Tabasco Sauce, quite a bit of ranch dressing, and a shred of romaine lettuce.

The result was like a mutant offering to the Gods of Taco Bell. I’ve convinced myself that these inbred tacos aren’t as horrifically unhealthy as they certainly are, because:

  1. I added olive oil to the already oiled potatoes. That’s healthy, right?
  2. Corn tortillas are whole grain, which everybody knows has fiber and crap.
  3. Romaine lettuce is supposed to have vitamins and shiznit.
  4. I used fat free ranch dressing, which we all know makes it totally okay. Actually, I purchased the fat free variety by accident, but that’s neither here nor there.
  5. The potato mixture contained sweet potatoes, which according to all the latest dietary research are supposed to be able to summon Jesus or something.

The result ended up tasting surprisingly good, although the kids refused to touch them. Unlike me, they know better.


Die Diet, Die!

August 3, 2010

While the kids were eating egg-in-the-basket for lunch today, a truly evil culinary idea struck me: you could build a sandwich around this.

For those who don’t know, you make egg-in-the-basket by heating a pan and cutting a hole out of the middle of a piece of bread. After heating butter in the pan, add the bread sans hole, and crack an egg into the hole. If you want, you can use the bread cut out to form the hole for dipping. Egg-in-the-basket occupies a strange nether-realm between fried eggs with toast and monte cristo since the egg seeps into the surrounding bread, and you can either leave it sunny side up or flip it and cook it over easy. It’s ridiculously simple to make and ridiculously good. If made over easy, it looks sort of like this:


From Wikipedia.

Since I really don’t want my kids getting salmonella from eating undercooked eggs, I make it for them fried on both sides with the egg cooked the whole way through. They love it. Done this way, it also holds together in one piece surprisingly well, which makes it an ideal starting point for all sorts of unhealthy concoctions I’m fearful of trying like:

  1. Egg-in-the-Basket Grilled Cheese. Why stop at using bread to make a grilled cheese sandwich, when you can use two pieces of egg-in-the-basket instead? You can fry two pieces sunny side up in a buttered pan, take them out, add more butter to the pan, add one of the eggs-in-the basket flipped over, put your cheese (and maybe a tomato slice if you’re into that) on top of it, and place the other egg-in-the-basket sunny side up over that. When the side on the bottom is done cooking, take it out, add more butter to the pan, and flip over the whole sandwich to cook the other side. Personally, that’s as far as I’d go since I don’t eat meat. However, if you’re a carnivore, why stop at grilled cheese when you could instead make an:
  2. Egg-in-the-Basket Patty Melt. Oh, yes. I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, you really should cook the hamburger first so that you can use a combination of hamburger grease and butter for frying the rest of the sandwich. But really, why stop there when you could instead make an:
  3. Egg-in-the-Basket Bacon Patty Melt. If you believe bacon makes everything better, this one’s for you. Cook the bacon in the pan first. Cook the hamburger in the bacon grease. Fry the egg-in-the-basket in the bacon/hamburger grease/butter. You get the picture. You know you want it.

I wonder how many diets I’ll destroy by putting this on the Internet . . .

Confounding Rampant Genderism, Then and Now

July 21, 2010
Cover of "Bob the Builder: Let's Find Shapes"


Right now my 18 month-old daughter is in that stage where she wants to have the same book read to her over and over, and over and over, and over and over . . . The book of choice is Bob the Builder: Let’s Find Shapes, which isn’t the least bit surprising considering her favorite toys have always been things like dump trucks and toy construction equipment.

The book is a little unsettling, though, due to the context in which the only clearly female character in the book appears. I realize that on the Bob the Builder TV show, many of the construction vehicles have female voices, but we don’t normally watch the show, and you can’t tell the machines’ genders from the book. Instead, the only woman, Wendy, appears holding a tray of cookies with the caption, “Wendy has star-shaped cookies for Bob.”

It’s flabbergasting, considering the book was published in 2002. As bad as that is, the book isn’t nearly as cringeworthy as some of the older things we have around the house.

Take, for example, the series of 25 pamphlet-style cookbooks I somehow wound up with from my parents that were published in the early 1960s. They’re littered with such gems of statements as, “Here are 250 recipes gathered . . . to help the hostess increase her repertory and add variety to her family’s everyday menus,” and “Sunday night suppers . . . give Mother an opportunity for training the children in the entertaining of their own guests.” Throughout the series of books, the person for whom the recipes are compiled is always assumed to be a woman, a mother, and a “homemaker.”

Better yet, the recipes in question are always for things like “Chicken á la King with Ham Rolls,” “Paté de Foie Gras,” “Chicken Pie de Luxe,” pies, cakes, cookies, and even candy made from scratch, because the female homemaker and parent in question clearly has nothing better to do than spend all day cooking an absurdly complicated evening dinner. There’s even a category of “After Sports Suppers” to be made when, you guessed it, the men are all sitting around watching sports on TV. My personal favorite is a recipe for something called “Chicken Calcutta,” because adding a pinch of curry powder and a pinch of chili powder to something apparently makes it Indian (it’s part of a “Cosmopolitan” recipe section of “Oriental” food).

I can’t help but wonder what a person who helped compile that crap would think of our household today, where I stay home with the kids while my wife goes to work, and our daughter plays with toy dump trucks and rugby balls when she isn’t busy trying to wrestle her two year-old brother to the ground. To top it off, our son likes to pretend to go to work. When he does this, he says, “Go to work,” and puts on one of my wife’s necklaces, rather than a tie.

I hope that individual could withstand passing out from shock just long enough to hear me to say, “Welcome to the 21st Century, dickhead.” It wouldn’t matter if the cookbook author in question was male or female; you don’t need to have one to be one. This is the 21st Century, after all.

Random Weirdness

February 17, 2009
  1. Our baby monitor is currently picking up someone else’s house. The reception is crystal clear. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our own house.
  2. When you Google “Tater Tot Casserole Recipe,” the first link that takes you directly to a recipe is that of the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family web site.
  3. If you desire to purchase a 4,435 square foot apartment in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from the U.S. State Department, you can do so by sending an e-mail to and referring to property ID 5TashkentX26. This handy information is just four clicks away from the recipe page on the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family web site.

Our Kid Has Strange Taste Buds

December 29, 2008
Garfield the cat eats lasagna in much the same manner as our kid eats capers.

Garfield the cat eats lasagna in much the same manner as our kid eats capers.

My wife and I have noticed for a while that our toddler has some unusual tastes in food. In many cases, we’re not sure where he got them from. Put a bunch of capers in front of him, and he’ll suddenly look like Garfield eating lasagna. Ditto for kalamata olives, curry dishes, Mexican-style black beans and rice, pickles, refried beans mixed with imported Mexican picante sauce, jamaican jerk black beans and rice, New Orleans red beans and rice, jambalaya, papayas, palak paneer with naan, and many other things that escape my mind right now.

Yesterday night, at a holiday dinner with my parents and my mother’s parents, we discovered another unusual food that he loves. Liking this one definitely runs in the family, even if it has completely skipped a generation: mincemeat pies.

My sister and I hate mincemeat, along with anything that serves as a vessel for it. For much of the rest of the family, though, it’s a different story. My mother grew up splitting time between the United States during the school year and England during many summers, and my grandmother is originally from outside Manchester, having come over to the U.S. after meeting my grandfather during World War II. A good chunk of my mother’s family still lives over there in ancestral places like Stretford and Macclesfield (recently named the least cultured place in all of Britain!), although some have moved on to London and to be scattered throughout the British Commonwealth. I have a ton of second cousins that I’ve only ever seen on a scant handful of occasions, if at all.

Because my entire father’s side of the family is absurdly Pennsylvania Dutch, my immediate family’s Englishness tends to pop up in completely random and strange ways. Some of them include our kid getting birthday cards addressed to “Master [insert name],” my mother’s ownership of sheet music for various Beatles and Rolling Stones songs brought home from England prior to the British Invasion, afternoon tea, my otherwise inexplicable Manchester United fixation, our sense of humor that tends to leave most people around here very confused rather than laughing, my mother’s completely straight-faced assertion that her favorite sport is cricket, my grandmother’s half-cocked attempt to teach my friends and I netball when we were kids, and the inescapable presence of mincemeat pies and/or eccles cakes every winter holiday season, often supplemented with the presence of lemon tarts, hot rice pudding, scones, and other random baked goodies in lieu of the Christmas cookies that most people in the U.S. would find familiar.

My sister and I always did our best to avoid the damn things while growing up. It wasn’t an easy task, because there were years my mom and my grandmother skipped baking American-style Christmas cookies altogether. The baking of miniature mincemeat pies, however, was never, ever skipped. Such was the case this year when, at dessert time, the mince pies were trotted out with nary a cookie in sight. We decided to let the kid try a mince pie broken up into little pieces. True to form, it turns out he loves the things.

I shudder at the thought.

Who ate all the pies? Our kid.

I’m just hoping this doesn’t mean I’ll have to start making them each December in the future, because neither I nor my wife will ever touch them, except to perhaps use as door stoppers.

If you, for some bizarre reason, ever wanted to try your hand at making some of the traditional English holiday treats mentioned here, I’ll gladly steer you in the direction of the Salford City Council web site, original home of the eccles cake, which has helpfully posted a recipe here.

I must warn you, though, that the Salford City Council is wisely holding back. The recipe they provide is most definitely not the real recipe. For starters, it does not include any brandy and/or whiskey. The recipes for real eccles cakes are protected with a level of security generally reserved for nuclear launch codes. My family has one, but if I ever divulged it I’d probably have to hire the mafia to protect me afterward.

The same goes for the rice pudding recipe — there’s something I ought to try on the kid sometime. At least I like that one.

Joe The Sloppy

October 31, 2008

I have just discovered that the kid really, really loves sloppy joes. That and, in the hands of a 14 month-old, they are sloppier than you ever could have imagined. Now that he’s napping, I believe I’ve gotten the last bit of it off the kitchen floor and out of the living room carpet . . .

They’re actually not true sloppy joes, since I don’t cook with ground beef, being a vegetarian and all. Instead, I make my own ground beef substitute, which takes less time to make than it does to brown up ground beef, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than buying those frozen, pre-made packs of ground beef substitute from the grocery store. Anyway, here’s the recipe for it, in case you’re interested:

You will need:

  • One liquid cup of water
  • One beef-flavored bullion cube (a lot of them don’t actually contain any meat products)
  • As much or as little dried onion as you want
  • As much or as little garlic powder as you want
  • As much or as little soy sauce as you want
  • As much or as little of any other spices as you want
  • One tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes (these include a bunch of vitamins, like B-12 and others, that you typically only find in animal products — if you don’t have it, feel free to skip it)
  • One dry cup of textured vegetable protein (also called TVP – this is made from soybeans, and you can find it in a surprisingly large number of stores)

Dump the bullion cube, the soy sauce, the yeast flakes and whatever spices you want into the water, and heat it up until the cube dissolves. Stir it up, dump in the TVP, and stir it up again.

Voila, you have “ground beef” that you can use in whatever it is you’re making that calls for ground beef.

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