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Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween in G'ville!

When I was growing up Halloween was a BIG DEAL.  My mother would take all six of us kids and dress us up with a different theme each year.  Our costumes were all home made and did I mention there was always a theme?  But it wasn't just her.  I grew up in a tiny village in upstate NY and folks loved fall and Halloween there.
I remember gathering apples at a nearby farm and taking them to a man down the road who had a cider press in his garage.  We would press the cider then sell it at the high school football games minutes later.  (Eight man on a side football by the way, it is a really small town.)
A week or so before the 31st there would be Fire Truck rides put on by the Volunteer Fire Dept.  They would pile a bunch of kids on the back of a truck and drive us around town.  It was ridiculous how much fun that was.  And afterward there would always be cider and doughnuts upstairs at the Fire House.  Those flavors remind me of fall.
As do popcorn balls.  If my mother wasn't going to dress us up in store bought costumes, than she sure as hell wasn't going to hand out pre packaged candy.  Popcorn balls were her thing.  For years she handed them out, but then, sadly, the newer folks in town wouldn't take them as prepackaged candy was supposed to be safer. Booo, seriously, booo. 
These are a classic, and the recipe below is hers.  I've added a few notes to clarify for you.  Please enjoy and pass them out to those who get how fantastical Halloween can be.
Popcorn Balls
4 quarts popped corn (uncooked)
1 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
few grains baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pop corn [a pound]
Combine molasses,sugar and vinegar in a large pot. (You'll need a big pot as you'll see later on in the recipe.)
Boil until a little rattles against a cup [250* F] (The "rattles" direction was before candy thermemeters were so easily obtained. Use the candy thermometer, its easier and safer.)
Add butter,soda and flavoring. (This is where the big pot comes in, this mixture will foam up, BIG TIME.  It's ok, that is supposed to happen.)
Pour into popped corn,stirring rapidly.
Wait about a minute for corn to cool enough to handle.
Rub hands with butter and form balls.
Cool and wrap individually in waxed paper.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Afternoon Tea

I have become a huge fan of afternoon tea.  It is incredibly civilized, flavorful and when shared with others, allows for conversation and relaxation.  Here is how it went down today.
My friends Ann and Gene were the most incredible of hosts.  Look at how she sets a tea table!  Loverly!

It was a quasi Vegan tea, with some bits here and there for the omnivores in the bunch.  Starting from the bottom of the picture: Sweet Fruit Bread (Ann Baked it), on the green platter were Curried Chickpea Sandwiches on Early Bird Multi Seed Bread, Open Faced Hummus, Avocado and Sprout on Oregon Herbed Bread and Toasted Early Bird Multi Seed Bread with Sliced Golden Delicious Apples and Vegan "Cream Cheese". On the rectangular silver platter were Open Faced Castelvatrano Olive, Pimento and Vegan "Cream Cheese" sandwiches on the Oregan Herb bread, toasted Early Bird Multi Seed Bread with Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil and more of the Curried Chickpea.

Did I mention Ann made Scones?  They were a vegan scone, thanks to the Vegan Yum Yum recipe.  More of a biscuit, but very good.  I ate mine with some Earth Balance spread and a drizzle of Coconut Nectar.  Others slathered Ann's homemade Raspberry Butter on top.  That was a big hit.  As was her Chokecherry Jam.

Ann also had some phyllo cups (not sure why they were bright red, but they were very festive) filled with an heirloom tomato and herb pesto.  Wonderful!
We had green tea, herb tea and a flowering jasmine to top of the tea.  An afternoon well spent.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Time Out in KCMO

People have many food biases; food is very personal after all.  But one of the strongest ones is that "outlying areas" are not the place to find great food.  I'm talking about places like Kansas City that are well known for their fantastic BBQ (Arthur Bryants anyone?), but not much else.
Unless you live there,  then you are in the know.  Here are a few places I tried and really enjoyed.

Iron Horse
Olathe, KS

I grabbed some take out from this tucked away in a tiny strip mall place.  They make their own noodles, BY HAND!  At the top of the picture are Tofu Dumplings, hand wrapped, and set on strips of corn husk to keep them from sticking.  They were lighter than you would think, as they are usually a very doughy dumpling.
To the right is Salt and Pepper Tofu.  This is a dish I try every time I see it.  Spicy without being overwhelming and the tofu were fried yet light.
Lastly, at the bottom of the picture is Vegetable Lo Mein.  Standard yes, but the handmade noodles and bok choy elevated it to something special.

Eden Alley
The Plaza, Kansas City, MO

A vegetarian/vegan oasis located in the basement of a church. Such a cool, wide open, quirky space.  We sat out on the patio to enjoy the lovely fall day. They take time to make food that has flavor, depth and intelligence.  Brunch was incredible.
From the top of the picture, Italian Hash.  Creamy mashed potatoes topped with Italian "sausage" and tomato sauce.  Next was a Curried Potato Pancake with hummus, spinach and a tomato caper sauce.  And lastly was the lightest Pecan Cranberry French Toast I have ever had.  It could have floated off the plate.

Mud Pie
39th St, Kansas City, MO

Mud Pie is a vegan coffee shop that also has baked goods.  Very tasty vegan baked goods. At the top of the picture is a Vanilla Cupcake with Mocha Frosting.  The crumb of the cupcake was light (often vegan baked goods are too dense and too sweet) and the Mocha Frosting was as well, not at all overwhelming.  To the right is a "Mostess" Cupcake.  A version of the original that, again, was not over sweet and the frosting was smooth and creamy.  To the left is a Layer Bar.  My favorite.  Not overly sweet but abundantly filled with coconut.  I'm not sure what they used to substitute for the usual Sweetened Condensed Milk this recipe calls for, but I like it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ali Baba!

Oh my, hummus and Muhamara (Walnut, fresh red belle peppers, burghol, blended with fresh onions, lemon juice and hot sauce, topped with olive oil).  The Tabbouleh was filled with parsley, as it should be.  The hummus was smooth and creamy. And the falafel were shaped like hearts!  What is not to love?

Makes Approximately 2 cups

1 cup      Roasted Red Pepper
3/4 cup   Walnuts, toasted, chopped
2 TBS     Pomegranate Molasses (can be found at Indian, Persian or Mediterranean Markets)
1/4 tsp.   Salt
1/4 tsp    Cumin
2 TBS     Breadcrumbs
1 TBS     Harissa (Middle Eastern Hot Pepper Paste)
2 tsp.       Fresh Lemon Juice

Method:Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve as a spread, add to hummus for flavor and heat or spread on grilled meats, poultry and fish.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Zoe Ma Ma!

Vegan good, handmade.

Za Jiang Mian or fresh made organic egg noodles with ground pork and vegetables...KB tried to lick the bowl when she was finished, wouldn't you?

Rice Noodles with vegetables in a Sichuan Pepper Sauce, and the bok choy was cooked perfectly.  Nicely done Ma Ma. And I do love your hats!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beans, Greens and Tomaters!

   What makes beets even more incredible is that they are two, two, two vegetables in one.  The greens can be utilized as they are quite flavorful.  You can use them interchangeably with Swiss Chard, to which they are closely related. Or if you've never used Chard, think of them as a sturdier Spinach.
   My mother and grandmother would often cook beet greens in tomato sauce, which I adore.  But I was in the mood for soup, so I decided to take their idea and soup it up. 

   I found these amazing beans called "Mortgage Lifter" in the bulk section of a natural foods store.  So named, apparently, because their bountiful crop helped a farmer pay off his mortgage.  Nice!  They cook into a large, meaty and creamy bean.  How perfect to bulk up the soup.  I soaked a cup of them overnight then simmered them for 1hour and 15 minutes in 4 cups of vegetable stock.  They are greedy suckers and need a bit more moisture than most.
   Following is a recipe for the soup.  Great for the cooler days ahead, and remember most soups freeze beautifully.

Beans, Greens and Tomato Soup
Serves 6

2 TBS              Olive Oil
1 cup                Onions, diced
1 24 oz. can     Crushed Tomatoes
2 cups              Vegetable Stock
½ bunch           Sage
½ bunch           Thyme
1 bunch            Beet Greens, destemmed and roughly chopped
3 cups              White Beans, cooked

Heat a soup pot over high heat.  Add the olive oil and heat through.  Toss in the onions and turn the heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the Tomatoes and stock. Using kitchen twine, tie the sage and thyme into a rough bundle and toss in with the tomatoes.  Mix in the beet greens. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the beans and cook for 10 minutes more.  Remove the herb bundle, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beta Vulgaris

Beets are either adored or loathed.  I fall on the adoring side of the little dirt grown marvels.  I've found that roasting them caramelizes the sugars inherent in them and makes them much more flavorful than boiling or steaming ever could.
Here is a beet and avocado salad recipe that I have adapted.  The colors may remind you of an early 1970's rumpus room, but you'll be blown away by the taste.

Beet and Avocado Salad
Serves 6

1 lb.                 Beets, peeled and cut into chunks
½ each             Red onion, cut into chunks
1 bunch            Thyme
2 TBS              Olive Oil
¾ cup               Pecans
2 TBS              Balsamic, Fig or Any Other Sweet Vinegar
1 each              Avocado, cut into chunks
4 cups              Romaine Lettuce, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix the beets, onions, thyme and olive oil together in an oven proof roasting pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until the beets are soft, approximately 45 minutes.
Place the pecans in an oven proof pan.  When the beets are done roasting turn off the oven and put the pecans in the oven to toast in the residual heat for 10 minutes.
Prepare the salad by making a base of the romaine lettuce.  Top with the pecans, then beets and then the avocado.  Toss the vinegar on top and season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Linner with Saleno

   For those of you wondering what in the hell Linner is, it's a late lunch or early dinner.  I was down south  in the Springs today and knew I would be finishing up work around 2, so I checked in with my friend Saleno to see if he could meet me for Linner, and after stopping off for a moment so that he could get married, off we went. (Long story, that, for another time.)
   We were going to try a Sri Lanken place, but they weren't open at 2:30 in the afternoon, so he suggested Vietnamese instead.  Pho Viet was our choice, it's in an old Pizza Hut and still has the door handles and wall paper to prove it.

   The use of fresh herbs like cilantro, mint and Thai basil, the ubiquitous fish sauce and some care taken in the cooking are all hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine.  The French/Chinese and native influences can all be felt, or better yet, tasted.

   We started with Vegetarian Vietnamese Egg Rolls and they even brought us "vegetarian sauce".  Not sure what it was, but tres fantastique.  If a place can fry correctly, they are bound to do well at other things.  Crispy, fresh, fabulous.

   Sal went with the combination Pho, which had all sorts of meat, including "bible tripe".

That is another name for omasum tripe, which is the third compartment of the stomach in ruminants. Beautiful to look at, and Sal said it tasted different than other tripe that he had eaten, more delicate.

  I went with the Tofu noodle bowl,  which was just lovely.  Again they know how to fry some things, as the tofu on top was fried so that it had texture and flavor, often missing when folks don't know how to work with it.
  Here is a simple Pho recipe, that will make it easy for anyone to make at home.  I suggest using both ox tail and shin bone, but whatever works for you. Tận hưởng! Ăn! (Enjoy! Eat!)

Pho with Sliced Beef
Serves 6

3 lbs.             Oxtail, cut into pieces or Beef Shin or Neck bones
½ cup           Fish Sauce
1 piece          Ginger, 3 inches
1 medium     Onion
6 whole        Star Anise
1 ½ stick       Cinnamon
4 whole        Cloves
1 each           Rock Sugar, 1 inch
2 tsp.            Fennel Seeds
1 lb.              Rice Vermicelli
1 lb.              Beef, eye of round, cut into paper-thin slices
3 each           Limes, cut into wedges
1 cup            Bean Sprouts
1 bunch        Cilantro
1 cup            Basil
2 each           Fresh Chiles, chopped
                     Black Pepper, freshly ground
                     Fish Sauce
                     Fried Shallots

1.      Smash the ginger with a mallet and hold over a low gas burner or medium high electric burner with tongs until charred.  Do the same to the onion.  Remove all ash from both.  Set aside.
2.      Put the oxtails or bones in to a stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil. 
3.      Heat the star anise, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds in a small fry pan until fragrant. 
4.      Pour off the water from the stock and add 5 quarts of fresh water. 
5.      Add the fish sauce, ginger, onion, star anise, cinnamon , cloves and fennel seeds and bring to a boil again.  Turn to a simmer and skim the scum from the surface occasionally.  Cook for 2 ½ hours. Strain when done (Can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.)
6.      Place the pound of rice vermicelli in a large bowl of cold water until softened, about 30 minutes.  Drain well and set aside.
7.      Bring the stained stock back to a boil.  Put the noodles into a large strainer and lower in to the stock and cook for about 20 seconds, or until tender.  Drain and place equal portions into 6 bowls.  Portion the beef into the bowls.  Ladle the boiling stock over the top and serve.
8.      Serve the rest of the ingredients as garnishes on the side.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


  Today I had a late afternoon cuppa and toast.  One of my all time favorite things to do.  And it wasn't even raining.  Toast seems to elevate every occasion.  Where would paté be without toast points, I ask you? Toast civilizes any food that it accompanies and any occasion where it is eaten.
  Today I had Dakota Whole Wheat Bread, lightly toasted, with Earth Balance Spread and Marmite.  A hot cup of Roobios Chai on the side and there, I had an occasion.
What is your favorite toast, toast topping and occasion to take part in the civilizing influence that is toast?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Food for Life

And so it begins...
Food is my passion.  I live it, I love it and I want to share that passion.  I will be posting pictures and musings, reviews and recipes.  Please comment and add to the mix.