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Holiday cooking

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Amazing utensil inventions from Australia

Amazing utensil inventions from Australia published on No Comments on Amazing utensil inventions from Australia

I have decided that Australia is the best place on the planet to find inventive utensils.  It all began with a Kick Starter campaign for the ButterUp.  For those of you who keep actual butter in their fridge and not spreadable margarine, you are familiar with the bread destroying inflexibility of the chilled substance.  Many of you may have moved on to French butter keepers.  If you are a Floridian, you may have tried French butter keepers and found our humid, fertile environment too mold rich for this method.  You face a dilemma.

The ButterUp is designed to make spreadable ribbons out of your chilled butter.  One side is cut into cheese grater like holes while the other side is gently serrated.  I have found it requires the right butter dish (like a traditional butter dish and not the pyrex bowl I put my sticks of butter in) to achieve the knife to butter angle that best produces ribbons. You can order these fabulous knives from Australia right now!

splaydAfter the ButterUp, what flatware collection is complete without a spork?  I tend to make a lot of chili and stew in Fall which are both too meaty and chunky for spoons and too liquidy for non spoons.  A spork seemed like the best solution, but my initial searching found only camping utensils and collapsible picnic ware.  I wanted a table top edition, something that could fit in with the rest of my flatware.  I found Splayd Utensils.

Some people say that the spork was invented by General MacArthur while he was in the pacific (“Spork’s Weird History” on Salon), others trace the roots of the spork to icecream forks and runcible spoons.  Whatever the true past of the spork, the splayd was invented in 1940 by Bill MacArthur (explanation for the General MacArthur myth?), who apparently wanted to save ladies and their tea dresses from balancing plates, forks, and knives at outdoor barbeques.  Splayd Utensils are a beautiful step in the evolution of the spork.  The straight edges aid in cutting without being sharp or dangerous when using the utensil like a spoon.  The bowl is a little shallow for good liquid retention, but it does the job.  I found a used set that, like the picture, has a very angular design.  New Splayd Utensils are a bit curvier and can be ordered from Australia.

Last, but not least, and, I suppose, not really a utensil is the  Memobottle.  This is another Kick Starter that I found answered a very specific question:  how to properly organize a bag that carries your files, your laptop, paper, tablet, etc., things that are all flat and rectangular, with a water bottle as well?  The answer is to make the bottle flat and rectangular.  I know there are many of you who never encounter this problem, who do not attend academic conferences or corporate business retreats.  You may not need this, but everyone else, all you paper pushers, should seriously check it out when Memobottle is finally made available for purchase online.

Recipe – more things on toast

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eggtomatopoachI mentioned before about making things on toast for dinner.  The distraction of looking for a house meant I only made two such meals before the mold came.  Obviously, it’s been a while since that happened; I’ve been keeping this post in my drafts while buying, packing and moving.  Yes.  I have a house!  And pretty soon, this blog will be replete with fix-its and design finishes…once I have a computer set up at home.

Anyway, back to the food.  My husband and I love the taste of this meal, but I hate to cook it since simmering tomato sauce is so messy.  If you are game, I suggest you try it:  poached eggs in tomato sauce on toast.  Here, with a side of steamed and buttered mustard greens.

I don’t really have a recipe for this.  Just fill a pot with enough tomato sauce to poach the eggs.  Add whatever seasoning you want.  Drop eggs in simmering sauce and keep simmering until they are as hard as you like them.  Ladle them on to toast and voila, you have a decadent tasting dinner.

Dinner time

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rarebitI recently came across the blog Table Matters and it got me thinking about old timey meals like those in my copy of Fanny Farmer’s cookbook, and meals that may be common place elsewhere but not where I live.

Then we got this bread that was REALLY awesome and decided that we would have to have some meals on toast.  This is the first:  my take on Welsh Rarebit, beef and goat cheese gravy sauce with some cheddar sprinkles and a side of cabbage slaw.  It looks kind of blah, but it was awesome!

Ingredients:  beef stock from stewing beef earlier in the week, goat cheese, a little flour (for thickening) and parsley all in the pot for the gravy, and toasted bread to put it on.  Ingredients for the slaw:  chopped cabbage, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard.

Appetizer series

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breadbowldipBread Bowl Spinach and Artichoke dip

Ingredients:  creamed spinach (I get the frozen-steam-in-bag-kind), a jar of artichoke hearts, feta or goat cheese, mozzarella shreds, and a nice, round, unsliced loaf of bread.

Instructions:  1.)  cook/heat/nuke creamed spinach if it is frozen, then mix creamed spinach, artichoke hearts, and cheeses.  2.)  cut the center out of the bread so that it creates a bowl.  3.) place bread bowl on cookie sheet and surround with the torn to chip sized innards of the bowl.  4.)  fill bowl with dip mixture.  5.) bake at 400 for about a half hour, then remove the bread pieces and put the bowl back in the oven.  6.)  bake another 15 to 20 minutes, arrange in an aesthetically pleasing manner and enjoy!

Appetizer series

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miniquicheMini Quiches

Ingredients:  eggs, shredded cheese, steamed and pulverized broccoli, flour, butter, water.

Instructions:  1.) make some pie crust dough:  this is really easy and usually requires mixing together a little less butter than flour and a trickling of water to hold it all together.  You don’t even have to worry too much about the texture and consistency on something this small.  2.) push pie crust dough into a mini muffin pan (yup, don’t roll it out at all, just use your fingers–I told you it was easy).  3.) mix together steamed/pulverized broccoli, eggs, and shredded cheese.  I used 2 eggs for an entire mini muffin pan (see previous sentence on small portion consistency).  4.)  spoon mixture into pie crust dough lined mini muffin divots.  5.)  bake at 350 or 400 until they firm up and brown a bit (estimate 20 to 30 min.).

Release tip:  I typically use a lot of butter in my pie dough and so do not worry about greasing the muffin pan.  If you are worried about sticking, you can use the butter stick paper to lightly grease the pan.  To get all the little quiches out, fit foil over the top of the pan after it cools a little.  Hold edges firmly and flip the whole thing over on the counter, then un-crimp the foil and lift the pan off the freed and un-dented quiches.

Recipes: the appetizer series

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minibakedpotatoAs I was drawing out my little appetizers, I noticed how alike they all look.  At least they look alike in black and white line art.  But then, many appetizers share the key characteristic of being finger foods.  They are bite sized and usually do not require any type of serving/dining wear.  They are like little pill capsules of food, and this is why (I say) all my pictures look alike.

On with the recipe:  Mini Potato Halves.  Ingredients:  I like to get the net bag of mini Yukon Gold potatoes, but any mini potato will do.  You will also need sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon and chives.

Instructions:  1.) empty the little potatoes into a big pot with some water and boil until manage-ably soft.  2.)  let cool enough to handle.  3.)  slice in half and spoon out a good portion of the innards (put aside in a bowl);  line hollowed halves on a foil lined cookie tray; water your plants with the potato water.  4.) add an entire small potato or two to the separated innards, combine with sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and chives; mash all into paste.  5.) spoon or pipe paste into hollowed halves and top with bacon piece.  6.) bake at 350 until edges are brown (I estimate 30 min.).

Who is cooking? Bear is cooking! How can that be?

Who is cooking? Bear is cooking! How can that be? published on 1 Comment on Who is cooking? Bear is cooking! How can that be?

I am back in the kitchen again.  Should it feel so good to cook?

I am not sure whether this looks as bubbly and fabulous as it was, but here ’tis.  Turkey patty and pearled couscous on a bed of baby watercress with goat cheese crumbles.  I made the couscous with a bit of lemon and black pepper.  Whole thing was sehr gut.


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Here we will answer the age old question:  what can you possibly mix with J&B?  There are plenty of suggestions in bar books, but none have really flown in my household.  When taking on a Giallo marathon we were stuck, once again, with finding a drink to make out of the famously Giallo J&B.  We came up with:


  • Finger of J&B (thus its name)
  • splashes of Canton (ginger liquor) – maybe even a shot of it
  • squirt lemon juice
  • ginger beer – for the rest of the glass.  The more, the weaker the drink.

A finger, by the way is when you have your hand wrapped about the bottom of a rocks glass so that your fingers make measurement lines up the side of the glass.  This drink also works with Becherovka – a crazy bitter slavic drink that also doesn’t taste good mixed with anything.



More about White Trash Cooking

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I said I would probably talk some more about White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler and now I’m gonna.  Here is the LEETTA I was talking about before.  Some time ago I was contacted by another LeEtta who was researching the origins of the name.  You know, there aren’t many of us, but there are enough to wonder where the name came from (I was named after my Great Grandmother, whom I never knew).

Anyway, White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler has more to recommend itself than just another LEETTA.  And if you know anything about the populating of the Appalachias then you’ll recognize the blend of truly southern and something Scottish in the recipes.  A few that I want to try right off:  Peggy’s Pig Eggs, Butts’ Gator Tail (though I have no idea where I’d get my hands on one), and Dirty Rice.

White Trash Cooking was republished for a 25 year anniversary printing, which is good because the out of print copy seems to have been in demand.  Amazon’s got a healthy preview available for you to peruse – that’s what the links are for.

Dinner challenge

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The ingredients from the pantry inventory:  farfalle pasta (bowtie), alfredo sauce, a can of quartered artichoke hearts and crumbly sausage.

The idea:  brown the sausage and then mix all the stuff together after cooking and bake (to take the jarred alfredo sauce taste out of the alfredo).  Unfortunately the alfredo sauce surprised me with a use by date of January 2012.  I wasn’t willing to tempt fate.

The solution:  cook other ingredients as planned and assemble with goat cheese and parmesan (found in the fridge).  It worked out pretty well and I’m only slightly irked that the alfredo sauce expired under my watch.

Recipes – stuffed peppers

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Not original by any means, I know.  Basically mine is just another vehicle for other things you might want to get rid of, that is, left-overs:  some rice, tomato puree, chick peas, ground beef, cheese, etc.  I picked up a tip to coat the peppers in olive oil to help them cook.

Then bake at 350-400 until the peppers change color and get all flimsy.

Like I said, not original.  I have to post them because my husband likes them so much.

Recipes – Asparagus egg and cheese pie

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I don’t make anything that can be called a quiche because I don’t like to add milk or cream to eggs, not even to scramble ’em.  But I do make a couple varieties of egg and cheese pie.

Ingredients:  eggs, cheese, some kind of vegetable (asparagus for us), and pie crust (optional).

Directions:  if you are going to put it in a pie crust, make your pie crust first and stick it in the oven while you mix up the other stuff.  These don’t need pie crusts at all and usually I am too lazy to make one in advance.

Next, in a mixing bowl, break and empty about six large eggs.  Discard shells.  Put a whole heap of shredded cheese of various kinds in there.  Add seasoning.  Stir like crazy and make sure that all the egg yokes are broken.

Chop asparagus into little pieces.  Get out your pie pan with or without crust inside and add asparagus.  Finally, pour egg and cheese mixture over and schmoosh around until everything’s about even.  Bake at 350-375 until you’ve smelled all the ingredients cooking and the top is browned (about 30 minutes I think).  Eat.

Note:  if you’re using a leafy floppy vegetable like spinach you could probably mix it in the bowl with the egg and cheese and then pour it all together.  I put the asparagus in the pan first to minimize splashing when pouring.

A while ago, when I spent more time in the stacks, I found this book called White Trash Cooking.  In it I found a recipe called Leetta’s Fancy Eggs & Cheese Pie.  That Leetta used cream in her pie and she didn’t capitalize the second ‘e’ in her name, but I felt an affinity just the same.  Nearby in the same book I found Margie’s Fried Chicken and Alma’s Almond Omelet.  That’s me, mom and grandma all in one book.  So of course I love White Trash Cooking.  I might talk more on it later, even.

Recipes – cous-egg-gus

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I was inspired to this by an honest to goodness recipe, or something, that I saw online during the days when I had enough time to look at food photo blogs.  Ah!  those were the days!  Anyway, I modified it a little and it is a solid ‘everyone loves it’ dinner for any time of year.

Ingredients:  Cous cous (I like the parmesan one though the original makes more), asparagus, eggs, parmesan cheese

Do:  get the cous cous started in a pot with the directions on the box and put the asparagus in a pan with some oil.  Saute saute saute the asparagus.  When the cous cous is done, add some parmesan cheese (even if you got the parmesan cheese one).  Dish on to plates.  Layer the sauteed asparagus on top of cous cous.  Now comes the tricky part.  I like to fry my eggs in the same pan I sauteed the asparagus with because I hate extra dishes.  This can require some finesse and has resulted in some smokey kitchens in my time.  You don’t have to use the same pan if you don’t want to – it might be less tricky to get the temperatures right.  Finally, layer fried egg on asparagus that already on cous cous and shake a liberal helping of parmesan on top.  There you have it.

I only gave it a name here because ‘egg on asparagus on cous cous with parmesan’ was too long for the title.  Oh, and I hear there are places in the states that cannot get asparagus year round, so my comment about any time of year could be incorrect.  I’m sorry for you if you cannot; that is a terrible state of affairs.

Dinner challenge turned recipe

Dinner challenge turned recipe published on No Comments on Dinner challenge turned recipe

Ok, the challenge was:  a variety of chicken things from various dinner stops at the Fresh Market.  That is, LEFTOVERS.  And I hate it when food goes to waste, I mean really.  People make fun of me for how upset I get when food is wasted in my house.

So there was chicken from inside a chicken Ceasar wrap, market chicken salad (really nice big pieces of chicken without much goop), and chopped chicken liver.  There were also some eggs to be used and a half bag of frozen homemade stuffing in the freezer from previous left overs. (the stuffing was crazy heavy on carrots and celery which is the reason for the picture)

The solution:  mix it all up into a big chicken parts stuffing cake and EAT IT.  And serve it to others to eat.  Mix it is what I did, in a big old bowl and used the eggs for binder before spooning it into a greased casserole dish. Then I topped with some seasoned bread crumbs and baked at 350 until I smelled all the ingredients and the bread crumbs were browned.

Verdict:  success!  it was well received and loved – enough to get its own name and maybe be repeated again.  But honestly, how often am I going to have frozen leftover stuffing, chicken salad, chicken bits, and chicken liver on hand to make it?

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