Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do I smell something burning????

This week is banned book week... and I've gotta say I'm ALL FOR banning books. If you find a book offensive by all means throw it in the trash... educate your children on the evils of that book... burn it in a fire pit in the backyard.... remove that evil book from your life for good...and then go about your merry little way... but PLEASE allow me to do the same thing for myself and my family. Lord knows I've often thought about firing up the grill for that Chicken Soup for the Soul book that I'm using to prop up the kitchen table leg... but then I'd be left with a really unstable kitchen table. So I'll make a deal with you... I'll let you keep your Chicken Soup book if you don't try to take away my kids copy of Shel Silversteins A Light in the Attic... even if it does glorify Satan, cannibalism and suicide or encourage kids to throw the dishes on the floor rather than dry them. I'll ban books from my home and you can ban books from yours... but let's agree to leave the bookstores and libraries alone.

When I heard it was banned book awareness week I thought I would try to find a banned cookbook to write about. It turns out that the only thing that pops up when you google "banned" and "cookbook" is The Anarchist's Cookbook... and while it's not really what I had in mind it is the most famous banned book I can think of. So I decided to take a trip to my local public library to inquire about it. I checked the catalog and found no listing and so I decided to talk to one of the librarians. She told me that people ask about it all the time... and they have had copies of it in the past... but apparently most anarchists either can't be bothered to acquire a library card or they don't tend to turn their books in on time (or at all)... Go figure. "Oh, librarian, your damn cards: the good people don't need them and the bad people don't use them so what good are they?" So I reached a dead end and I can only speculate about what kind of recipes an anarchist might want to make... and wonder if they really follow recipes at all? Other than The Anarchist's Cookbook... I did find out that while it was never banned The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook had it's most famous recipe (Hashish Fudge) removed from it's first American publication. Hippies everywhere are left to decide how much hashish is too much... and frankly that makes me more uncomfortable than if the recipe was actually published.

Looking at the two examples I've given so far... you might see why people want to ban books. A book with recipes for terrorism??? and a book about cooking with illegal drugs??? What good do these books do anyone? The problem is that censorship doesn't stop there... Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods were both banned because people felt that they were offensive to Native Americans. Like Water For Chocolate was banned due to sexual content. How to Eat Fried Worms was banned for promoting socially unacceptable behavior and promoting gambling. And the list goes on and on and on....I think just about everything I had to read for college and high school is on some list somewhere... A pity I didn't know that then... I might have been a bit more keen to read them... although I would have been disappointed when the juicy bits didn't materialize. I read As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and while it might "use profanity and questions the existence of God"... so did I... and I never got banned from the library. Wouldn't it be great if teenage girls were carrying around dog-eared copies of The Grapes of Wrath with all the "inappropriate sexual references" highlighted rather than this years version of Judy Blume's Wifey?

But enough about censorship and banned books... let's get back to what this blog is about... FOOD... I'll leave you with a recipe.

Chicken Soup for the Anarchist's Soul

3 chicken breasts - use free range chickens only... "Free-range is not chaos... but poultry without control!"
6 cups chicken broth
carrots (who am I to tell you how much to use?)
potatoes
onion
celery
garlic
rice or pasta
fresh herbs

Mix all these ingredients together and simmer until it is sufficiently cooked... Cook without recipe or permission... Do it your way and a delicious soup will follow!



Most of the information I got on the reasons certain books were banned came from the ALA Banned and Challenged Books page (they also have free clip art for your own blog if you like). I also used Delete Censorship.org. There are tons of surprising books listed there.... take a look!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jalapeno Cream Corn

Dinner last night was good. I tried out a side dish that I hadn't made since my restaurant days and it was tasty and easy. I thought I'd show the recipe here... along with what dinner looked like on a typical Thursday night at the K household.

First I dipped chicken breasts in an egg and coated them with progresso bread crumbs. I gave the bottom of my cast iron a coating of olive oil and then cooked the breasts until golden brown and the chicken was cooked through. It is not the healthiest preparation of chicken... but it is certainly lower in fat than traditional fried chicken and it was tender and good. I have also cooked chicken this way in the oven before... but sadly despite the arrival of fall... summer is still holding on to a little of the heat and the oven seemed like a bad idea.

Every night we have some sort of fresh fruit and salad on the table. On this night it was melon and spinach salad... The salad is in the bag...très chic...but hey I'm a practical woman and who wants to wash out a big salad bowl if you don't need to? We set the table every night and have a family dinner together.

Finally the Jalapeno Cream Corn. This is not that gloopy cream style corn from a can (that I loved as a kid... but kind of find creepy as an adult). This is corn with cream cheese and jalapenos. It is very simple to make...All you need is a 1 lb. bag of frozen corn (or if corn is cheap and in season then use fresh for even better results), 4 oz of cream cheese, 2 T. butter, and jalapenos to taste. 1. Cook the corn according to the package directions. 2. Drain fully 3. Add all the other ingredients, stirring it until the cheese and butter are fully melted. Wah-la that's all there is to it.


Dinner is served!



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

See You Later Sweet Potater...


As a child I never liked sweet potatoes... The idea of that traditional southern dish of pureed potatoes with coconut, pecans, and marshmallows served every Thanksgiving just somehow seemed wrong to me. I mean I loved marshmallows as much as any kid... but marshmallows on a vegetable... I just couldn't wrap my head around it. But then one day I tried sweet potato fries at a BBQ restaurant in Gruene, Texas. From that moment on I was hooked. The first time I made my own I just bought the pre-made fries from the freezer section at the grocery store. It was a big disappointment and it was a while before I tried them again. Since then I have been making my own steak-cut fries and sauteing them in oil with onion, salt, and pepper. I like cooking them until the onions and potatoes both have a nice brown color... caramelizing them brings out the sweet flavor. mmmmm

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dim Sum


Recently my husband and I visited T and S Seafood in Austin for some Dim Sum. We got a sitter (Thanks Logan!) and had a Sunday morning/afternoon date in the city. Dim Sum and a pot of hot tea really hits the spot sometime and this was one of those times. We enjoyed char siu baau (a bun filled with BBQ pork),Sticky rice, a variety of dumplings and pot stickers, shrimp encased in the skin of a jalapeno, and a really good shrimp and seaweed concoction. I've had better dim sum in San Fransisco... but I think that over all my favorite place to get dim sum in Austin is at T and S.





The words Dim Sum mean "to touch the heart"... and while I don't know if it touches my heart (unless you are talking about the greasy fingers of saturated fat) it's a lot of fun and I usually walk away from the table with a satisfied feeling that isn't totally about my full belly. I love selecting food from the carts that are brimming with mysterious treats. Certainly some of the foods aren't my style... I always pass on the chicken feet... and anything with tripe in it still makes this X-vegetarian's skin crawl... but overall I try to be adventurous.



Tea is an important part of the experience... both personally and historically. The tradition of Dim Sum is Cantonese and began in tea houses along the silk road... but now it is a custom celebrated throughout China. It has spread to the U.S. through Chinese immigration... and I'm so happy that it did. While many restaurants serve Dim Sum all day for the most part it is best eaten at brunch . This makes it the perfect weekend meal. Dim Sum is fun for two... but it is even better with a group because it give you the opportunity to try small portions of a wider variety of dishes. If you haven't already experienced Dim Sum I highly recommend it!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Corina and Ceci's Salsa


I lived in Guanajuato, Mexico for a year and a half as an English teacher. My husband and I decided to move there after vacationing there with friends. We spent a year saving and preparing and then took off on one of the most amazing adventures of our lives. It was an important time in my life and it was a fun time too... I changed a lot while I was there and I learned many things as well.

Here are just a few of the many things I learned:

how to light the pilot light on a hot water heater
how to speak Spanish well enough to get by
the best way to get around a donkey that is blocking your path

the most delightful way to spend a rainy afternoon
how to wash cloths on a roof top
where to find the best taco stand
how to cheer on my favorite soccer team in Español
how to drink out of a plastic bag
the best ways to truly relax
how to find a reason to party EVERYDAY
the best way to choose an avocado
and last but certainly not least.... how to make Ceci and Corina's salsa

Most of these things I can't really share in a simple blog entry... (except perhaps for how to light a pilot light)...because most of these things you have to discover for yourself... but I can share Corina and Cecilia's recipe for salsa with you....

Ceci and Corina came from Mexico City and they lived with us during our last few months in Mexico. They were great friends and excellent roommates and they made a mighty mean salsa. I'm sure I have changed it slightly with the passage of time... but this is the recipe as I remember it and as it has evolved (like all good folk recipes do) in my kitchen.

First you put tomatoes, chilies, onions, and garlic in a pan with a little oil and saute them until they caramelize and the tomato skins begin to blacken slightly. The amounts of these ingredients depend on your personal taste... but here I have 4 tomatoes, one onion, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 jalapenos, and 2 hatch chilies.... Ceci would say "Esta buena pero falta pica"...it's good but it isn't spicy enough... but then again that was a running joke in our house until the day Paul put handfuls of habaneros in and rendered her speechless for awhile...Then eyes watering she croaked out... "Esta buena"...





Once you have things nice and cooked you just throw the whole thing in a blender and add salt to taste and a little water. I like to put the water in the pan first and stir it around so that I take advantage of all the stuck on goodies in the pan. It also gives the salsa a nicer color.



Once it is blended it is ready to serve with chips, tacos or anything that can use a little kick.

Buen Provecho!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brownies

Making brownies from a box may seem like a simple activity... but it is a great way to get your kids into the kitchen. I learned to love cooking by helping my grandmother stir cheese powder into macaroni for family dinners and I also learned things about science and math without even realizing it.
I prefer to make foods from scratch... but Betty Crocker sure makes it simple! My kids are able to look at the illustrations on the back of the box and gather all the ingredients together by themselves. Then I preheat the oven and we mix it up while talking about temperature, learning fractions, and making predictions about how and why baking will change the batter into brownies. The kitchen becomes a delicious science lab where the reward is a chewy chocolate-y treat. You can even substitute apple sauce or mashed bananas for half the oil if you are feeling like making it a healthier experiment as well.

Here's my littlest helper greasing the pan.




They each take a turn at stirring...



And we play a game of ABC go fish while we wait for the results of our experiment.


mmmmmm..... the results are a delicious treat that they can share with the whole family.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I got this lovely blog award from Endy Eats and Cooks. We share an interest in celebrating food... especially spicy foods... and I've been reading her blog for a while now. I'm glad to know that she enjoys my blog as much as I enjoy hers. Thanks Endy!

In order to accept this award I have to tell people 7 things that they might not know about me... so here goes.

1. I dream of playing the accordion well. I even own one that I bought on Ebay... not this beauty (this was a loner)... but a broken piece of junk that has been sitting in my closet since I bought the thing. I'm probably going to sell it at my garage sale this weekend if anyone is interested... and maybe someday when I have a windfall of money... I will brave Ebay again and try to find one that actually works. For now I will be content in the knowledge that I taught myself how to play Hank William's Jambalaya and attend the International Accordion Festival in October. At the moment I take guitar classes at a Mariachi Academy. It is a much more practical instrument... and my husband is (not so) secretly happy that my dreams of being the polka queen have yet to be realized.
2. I love Indian food and really love a good buffet. My favorite dish is Malai Kofta... veggie dumplings swimming in a spicy sauce.

3. I was once a cheerleader. I'm the little one with the pig tails..


4. I was once in a dinner playhouse version of The Sound of Music. I played Marta... and I still remember at least one of my 5 lines in the musical... and I know all the songs by heart.

5. I love reading young adult science fiction and fantasy books. Sure I've read the classics and I like to read "literature" as well... but young adult sci-fi is my guilty pleasure: Eion Colfer, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Ursula LeGuin... etc...

6. I wear a bandana in my hair EVERYDAY. It is kind of a running joke with my friends. The only exception is right after I get a haircut I try for a few days... a week tops... to do my hair in the mornings. But otherwise it is pulled back from my face with a colorful bandana. I also like flowing skirts, richly colored scarves and yes... even gaudy costume jewelry... but I really can't be bothered with accesories... EXCEPT my handy dandy bandana.

7. I'm not really a big fan of cats. I had a cat once... and my husband had one when we got married... but I find life better without one in the house. I don't like cat boxes or the smell of cat food. I more of a dog person... and besides I keep fish...


and here are the links to the blogs I'd like to award...
Blue Frog Legs
Cloudberry Knit
Southern Jackass
Doin' it
These are blogs I've discovered recently and really enjoy reading.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eat Like a Heron


This is a photo of my oldest daughter a couple of years ago at one of her favorite nature walk areas. The bird behind her is a yellow-crowned night heron... it is one of her favorite birds. She loves walking along the river and looking for them fishing in the shallows. She has passed this love of nature on to her younger sister and together we have gone on many nature adventures at the river. When she started kinder earlier this month I've had the pleasure of hanging out with her sister and enjoying some one on one time with my youngest. Last week we took a walk through this very same park and witnessed a bird just like this one eating in the shallows. It grabbed a crawfish with it's pointy beak and we sat in the grass and watched it shake and dissect the poor creature and then throw it's head back and swallow it. My daughter was fascinated... but unlike me she didn't get a craving for crawfish etouffee or gumbo... her snack craving leaned more towards little orange fishies that come ready to eat in a bag. When we got home we decided to eat like a birds...


Here's my little heron using a pair of chop sticks like a beak to eat her goldfish. This is serious business!


And here she is enjoying the fruits of all that hard work.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Tall Tale...


This week I wrote a little tall tale and put it to music. It is a little song about how I saved the universe with gravy... and why I wear suspenders. I can't put the music here... but if you have a hankerin' to sing it just bring Marty Robbins to mind (El Paso) and you'll be pretty darn close.


Late evening, mid August, a meteor shower

I was watching the show while drinking a brew.

But don't let my love for that particular beverage

Have you doubt for a moment my story is true.


In a spark that could have changed the heavens forever

Orion's belt buckle... it fell from the sky

If it had not have been for my extra quick thinkin'

The galaxy might've been lost in the blink of an eye.


For when the hunter's pants fell down round his ankles

His arrow released, but it didn't shoot true

And instead of it's mark it found the big dipper

And the old milky way it began to spill through.


With my Texas sized hat I caught the universe drippin's

I mixed them with flour and I made a thick roux

And with this thick gravy I patched the big dipper.

Thus holding on to the universe stew.


Then I searched high and low for the celestial belt buckle.

But it had turned into ash from it's journey through space.

So I hitched up my pants with a pair of suspenders

And tossed my own buckle into it's place.


So now every summer at each Perseid's

I know my belt buckle is worn with great pride.

That's no distant sun that keeps his pants from the earth,

But the lone star of Texas... the state of my birth.

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