Or, if you want to put it another way, Introduction Deja Vu.
Hello, and welcome to the Purple Ranger’s relocated laboratory/kitchen. And just to clarify things, I am the Purple Ranger in question.
The original version of this site is/was located at IReallyLikeFood, which is one of the various Xanga-related sites. As some of you may have heard, there has been some question as to whether or not the Xangaverse will be continuing after the end of this month.
Since the announcement of doom several weeks ago, I have read more than a few Xangans stating that they would be relocating their blogs to WordPress if Xanga disappeared. You may have seen some of them, or you may be one of the influx from Xanga to WordPress. Needless to say, I am joining that influx.
As I stated in my original first entry, I enjoy cooking. I enjoy turning my kitchen into a mad scientist’s laboratory. And I especially enjoy sharing the results of my experimentation.
That’s why I created my site on IReallyLikeFood, and it’s why I’m continuing it here. I will be transferring my old entries — backdated — to this site; just scroll down to everything below this entry.
So, sit back, and enjoy the ride — again.
A couple of years ago, Bill Samuels, Jr. Of Maker’s Mark wrote a history of his family’s most excellent bourbon. A few brief pages were devoted to recipes using Maker’s Mark as one of the ingredients.
One of those recipes was called “Bourbon Butter,” and I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be great both on crackers or on Texas toast. (Mr. Samuels says that the bourbon butter is also good for topping a steak, but I didn’t try it with that particular batch.)
Not too long ago, I was at the library, and I happened to flip through that book again. As I looked at the Bourbon Butter recipe again, I found myself wondering how well this could be adapted into a recipe for garlic butter. Once that thought crossed my mind, it was firmly imbedded there until I finally satisfied my curiosity.
Now, the Bourbon Butter recipe called for one stick of butter, an equal amount of blue cheese, and one tablespoon of bourbon, all thoroughly blended together. (As I recall, I used two or three tablespoons of bourbon, because I thought it needed a stronger bourbon flavor. It still probably could have used more bourbon, though.)
I think the main reason I thought it needed a stronger bourbon flavor is because of the blue cheese. It gave the butter a delightful tang, but it also overpowered the flavor of the bourbon. I thought that using less blue cheese would let the flavor of the garlic be more noticeable.
Here’s the recipe that I eventually tried:
BLUE GARLIC BUTTER
1 lb. Butter
8 oz. Blue Cheese
6-8 cloves Garlic, minced
1. Cut the butter and blue cheese into chunks and place in a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Place the bowl in the microwave for 30 second intervals to soften. (You probably won’t need to nuke it more than twice.) When soft, blend the butter and blue cheese together.
3. Add the garlic and blend thoroughly.
4. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors blend together. Use as you would any other garlic butter.
YIELD: Approximately 1 quart
Once I finished mixing everything together, I put it in a 1 quart plastic container, and it more or less filled it.
I used the minced garlic that comes in a jar, and based on what the label said, the amount I used was the equivalent of six to eight cloves of garlic. I also added some garlic powder, because I didn’t think the garlic flavor was strong enough.
And therein lies my main problem. The garlic flavor still wasn’t strong enough. Oh, the butter was good; no doubt about that. It made some great Texas toast, and was wonderful on crackers. But the flavor of the blue cheese was still too strong, still overpowering. I had a hard time tasting the garlic.
I’m going to try this again, and I know that I will be decreasing the amount of blue cheese that I use. The big question is, how much less should I use next time? And should I also increase the amount of garlic I put in the butter?
A couple of years ago, I picked up a few cans of “Rio Grande Vegetables.” This was part of a product line from Del Monte called “Savory Sides,” and this particular selection was pinto beans, tomatoes, corn, and green chiles in a spicy sauce.
I really liked them. Unfortunately for me, I think I discovered them right about the time that Del Monte was discontinuing that product line, because I haven’t seen them in stores since.
Needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed. I kept a label from one of the cans, so I know what was in this particular mix. What I didn’t know was how to combine everything correctly so that I could create my own version. Until recently, that is.
Not too long ago, I was looking through my pantry, and I happened to reach for a can of Ranch Style® brand beans. Lisa Fain (otherwise known as The Homesick Texan) has described them as pinto beans in a chili sauce. In fact, she was the one who piqued my curiosity into trying them when she posted a recipe for a clone version of these beans on her blog.
As I was looking at that can, everything started falling into place, like the tumblers of a combination lock lining up. Suddenly, I knew how to recreate Rio Grande Vegetables — and the best thing was, I had all of the ingredients on my shelves.
Now, if The Homesick Texan were recreating this, she would probably be doing everything from scratch. There is nothing wrong with that, but my primary interest was seeing if I could recreate the taste as accurately as I remembered it.
So without further ado, I present for your enjoyment:
RIO GRANDE VEGETABLES
2 Cans (15 oz.) Ranch Style® brand beans
1 Can (16 oz.) Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1 Can (10 oz.) Ro*Tel® Tomatoes And Green Chiles
1 Can (4 oz.) Diced Green Chiles or Diced Jalapenos
1. In a 2-quart glass bowl, mix together the beans, corn, and tomatoes. If necessary, use some of the liquid from the corn to get all of the sauce out of the bean cans.
2. Once you have everything thoroughly blended, taste. If you think it needs a little more spice, add the can of diced green chiles. If you think it needs a lot more spice, add a similar size can of diced jalapenos. And if you consider yourself a chile head, add both.
3. Cook in the microwave for three to four minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Serve with your entree du jour.
Now, when I tasted everything after stirring everything together, I thought I hit the mark in matching the taste of Del Monte’s product. And I thought it was spicy enough as it was, so I didn’t add the green chiles.
Have you ever tried creating a clone recipe of your own?
This is more of a hint than an actual recipe. It’s one of those things that I more or less stumbled across, and suddenly realized, “Hey! this is a great idea!”
This came to me when I was first reading Midnight Munchies by Diane Morgan. A number of recipes in this book call for the dish to be topped with breadcrumbs, or cracker crumbs, or something similar prior to a quick run under the broiler.
Now, I have found that you usually need bread to be just a little on the stale side to be able to properly turn it into breadcrumbs. And most of the time, I tend to finish the loaf before that last slice or two can get properly stale.
At the same time, I was finishing a big bag of tortilla chips, and of course, all that was left were those bits and pieces that are somewhat larger than crumb size, but are way too small to even try using with a dip. (You would end up with more dip on your fingers than on the chip.)
That’s when I came up with the idea of a crumb mix. Whenever I get to the bottom of a bag of chips, be it tortilla chips, potato chips, or whatever other kind of chips, or when I have a few broken crackers remaining in a sleeve, I thoroughly pulverize them, whether by hand or by using a large can. I then pour the resulting crumbs into a container for later use, and once it’s sealed, I give the container a good shake or two to mix everything together. I call this mix of crumbs “Denny.” (Unless you’re from Louisville or surrounding environs, you probably don’t realize just how funny this is.)
Whenever I make something that calls for some kind of crumbs, I scoop out the needed amount, and use as directed by the recipe. I’ve also learned that when I use something from this mix, it’s usually a good idea to reduce or even eliminate the amount of salt called for in the recipe. The blend of crumbs is quite salty all by itself; you don’t need to add any other salt to whatever you make be cooking.
Now that I have this nice big container of assorted crumbs, I need to find some more uses for them. There has to be more uses than topping macaroni and cheese or a noodle casserole.
First, I trust any and all who may be reading this had a Merry Christmas, and is enjoying New Year’s Day. I went to my parents’ house for Christmas (a four-hour drive), and while I was there, I mentioned to my dad how much I was (slowly) enjoying the chocolate-chocolate chip cookies they had sent. I then asked the question that had been in my mind since they sent me that first batch of cookies for my birthday:
“Dad, where did you get that recipe, anyway?”
His reply caught me just a little off-guard. “It’s your recipe.”
WHAT? [Sound FX: scratching of a record needle]
I asked Dad to elaborate, and apparently, this was something that I had created when I was still living with my parents. When I moved out, I had left behind an index card with the recipe written on it.
I’ll take his word for it that this was my recipe, even if it has evolved somewhat. When I compared it to the recipe I currently have, it appears to be a case of evolutionary branching.
First of all, I want to state clearly and for the record that most of this entry is something that I am sharing, with the original author’s permission.
The author in this case is Ellen Byerrum, the author of the “Crimes Of Fashion” mystery novels. (If you have not read any of them, I would highly recommend them, but I’m getting off topic.) Yesterday, she reposted an entry on her LiveJournal that she wrote a year ago. I read it when it was originally posted, and when I read it again yesterday, it was just as jaw-droppingly funny as the first time I read it.
As I said in a comment I left on her LJ, this is too good not to share with as many people as possible. And while it is PG-rated, I don’t know if this could make it to the IRLF front page. So, with Ms. Byerrum’s kind permission, I am sharing it with you here.
[NOTE: I had to make a few minor changes in formatting to make things look as they did on her site. Everything else remains the same.]
Originaly posted at http://ellenbyerrum.livejournal.com/25231.html
Thanksgiving Turkeys And The People Who Love Them
This week in honor of Thanksgiving, I am reposting a piece I wrote last year. Why? Because I really can’t think of Thanksgiving without turkeys and I can’t think of turkeys without remembering one of the stranger and funnier interviews I had as a safety reporter. It’s always been a good conversation opener, or closer. (It could also be subtitled The Sex Lives Of Turkeys.)
Some years ago, when I was reporting for a DC trade journal, I interviewed an ergonomist who described to me possibly the worst job I can imagine. On a turkey farm. This job is just one small step, possibly the first, on the long road to getting that tasty roast turkey on your table for Thanksgiving dinner. On my beat, I covered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace injuries and job-related stress and violence, and I regularly learned about terrible jobs. This is certainly in the top ten terrible jobs of all time. And I guarantee you, whether you’re employed or not and whatever it is you do for a living, you will be thankful you do not have this job.
My story was never published. Anything that smacked of a smirk was frowned upon at this publication, and my editor said that although my story was fascinating, there was no way he would ever print it. Nevertheless, I have always wanted it to see the light of day, beyond entertaining friends during cocktail hour. This story is rated PG-13, and it’s about turkeys and before they ultimately get turned into dinner, so stop now, if you’re easily offended. Or a vegan. I will try to use euphemisms where I can.
Turkeys: An Ergonomics Challenge
Ergonomics is basically the science of fitting the workplace environment and equipment to the worker to maximize comfort and safety. It’s not just about office chairs and keyboards; it can apply to any workplace, and ergonomic solutions can be creative, as my informant demonstrated. To preserve his privacy, I’ll just call the ergonomist in this story “Ian.”
On one of his first jobs after graduating with his degree, Ian was called in to address injuries being suffered by women working at a turkey farm in Canada. The female workers reported chronic shoulder and wrist injuries. The stressful part of their job was holding the tom turkeys firmly with one arm, while with the other hand manually “encouraging” them to “donate” their sperm in order for the turkey hens to be artificially inseminated. It required a willing turkey, a supple wrist and a little glass tube. The women’s job title was probably something like “sperm collection technician.” But what did these workers call themselves? TURKEY JERKERS. Well, duh, as they say.
So why do we need turkey jerkers? Why not just let the turkeys do what comes naturally to create young turkeys, you may well ask? I asked that question too. According to Ian, apparently the toms are very aggressive in their mating, and they tend to scar the poor hens with their talons. Better to lend nature a helping hand. Ian also noted that the workers’ problems were exacerbated because — well, the tom turkeys really enjoyed this part of the process. So much so that after making their donations, they would line jump to take another turn with the turkey jerkers. But the second time, that tom would take much longer to deliver the desired results, if at all. Bad for productivity — and the women’s wrists. (The turkeys didn’t seem to mind.) There was no system to determine which turkeys had already had their fun for that day. And to make it worse, Ian said, the tom turkeys were huge, up to fifty pounds apiece, and very excitable, while most of the workers were petite Asian women. With sore shoulders and aching wrists.
Obviously, it was in the best interest of the employer and the workers (and the turkeys) to find a better way to do this job and keep these women from sustaining musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). After all, how many people, even in these recessionary times, are willing to do that job for a turkey? (“Not I,” said the little red hen.) And for the Washington, DC attorneys who argue that up is down and night is day, and there are no such things as work-related MSDs, just save it for the turkeys, guys. Okay?
Now, if I had ever thought about it, which I hadn’t, I would have assumed there was some high-tech machine that handled turkey sperm donation. For all I know, at present there may be some kind of space-age SpermGizmo that does the job. And I hesitate to consider what happens in the rest of the animal kingdom. We’ll leave that up to The Nature Channel. But these women at the turkey farm were doing it all by hand.
Ergonomic And Creative Solutions
Ian set out to find a solution. A couple of fixes to address the shoulder injuries seemed relatively easy. He had stands constructed so the big wiggly birds could rest on them, instead of the tiny women struggling to hold them up. He devised a labeling system — birds now wore colored rings around their necks to determine whether they had donated that day, so they could be separated from the rest of the turkeys waiting their turn.
But how to alleviate the wrist injuries? Ian put his mind to it and the lightbulb clicked on. Remember, ergonomics is finding an effective solution to the problem, whatever it takes. He went to an adult “specialty” store, named something like the “Pink Pussycat,” where everyone wore tight black leather outfits and showed a lot of bare flesh. Except Ian. He was wearing his best suit. He wasn’t there for posters of pretty hens to entice the toms. He asked for two dozen — let’s call them “personal massagers.” Needless to say, the sales clerk was impressed.
“Two dozen? What on Earth are you going to use two dozen for?” the clerk wanted to know.
“Don’t ask,” Ian said.
“Oh! I see,” the clerk responded, as if he had a clue. “I’ve got to go in back.”
Ian heard some commotion in the back and the manager came out to meet this amazing customer. “Wow. We’ve never sold a case of these before,” he said. “You’re gonna need batteries too. Use the Duracells; they last longer.”
Ian returned to the farm with the massagers and distributed them to the workers. Voila! The massagers “worked like a charm,” Ian said. The turkeys were happy. The turkey jerkers were happy. Mission accomplished. Until . . .
The turkey farm called him back one day. Their batteries were all dead. No problem, Ian said; just buy more batteries, keep them in stock. But the farm had a company policy, he was told. Batteries were considered an employee theft problem. They wouldn’t stock anything people might easily steal. When the farm’s purchasing manager asked what they were used for, Ian explained.
“Oh my god! That will never do,” the manager said, and refused to okay the battery purchase. “I can’t expense these!”
Our intrepid ergonomist went back to work on the problem. And he headed back to the Pink Pussycat. The clerk remembered him well. He was a local legend. “You’re the dude who bought twenty-four [massagers]!” Ian explained they were working just fine, but they were running out of batteries. The clerk, in awe, asked him how long the massagers were being used at a time.
“About sixteen hours a day,” Ian said. “Don’t ask.”
The clerk was stunned. The manager was stunned. Ian asked if they had a comparable plug-in model with a long cord. They did. He bought two dozen of those.
They begged him to reveal what he was using all those massagers for. You gotta tell us, dude! Our resourceful ergonomist, however, kept his professional secret — and the turkeys’ mystery. Finally the ergonomic challenges of turkey jerking had been solved. Human ingenuity saved the day (and the turkey jerkers’ shoulders and wrists — and jobs).
In the course of my interview, Ian went on to tell me other stories, for example about ergonomics for strippers and poker players. But those are tales for another day.
Copyright 2010, 2011 Ellen Byerrum. Reposted by permission.
Okay, it’s me again. I want to thank Ms. Byerrum for allowing me to share this with you. This story is just too good not to share with as wide an audience as possible. And I have to admit, I am thankful that I am not a turkey jerker.
You know, this brings a whole new meaning to the term “Food Porn.”
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I think there’s only one way to describe this recipe’s origin, and that’s “Okay, how about this?”
It started while I was reading The Homesick Texan Cookbook, by Lisa Fain. First of all, I want to recommend this book. I’ll be writing a review of it, but that will be another entry. As I was looking through the book, one recipe that caught my eye was a recipe for scones, which really doesn’t come to mind when you think of Texas cuisine. Ms. Fain explains the recipe this way:
“When I was young, my mom went through an Anglophile phase, and one of the results was her replacing our usual biscuits with the English scone. People say that a scone is simply a biscuit with an egg added to the dough, though I find that scones do lend themselves more to embellishment.”
Ms. Fain also has a recipe for biscuits in her book (you were thinking otherwise?), so I decided to compare the two. The scone recipe did indeed have quite a bit in the way of the aforementioned embellishments, but when you compare the basic recipe to her biscuit recipe, the two are quite similar. Except, of course, that the scone recipe calls for an egg.
Once I saw that, one very simple question zipped through my mind at warp speed: Would this hold true for any biscuit recipe? Could it be that easy for me to turn a biscuit recipe into a scone recipe?
As it happens, I had at hand a very simple recipe for biscuits, which, believe it or not, I acquired at a World Science Fiction Convention. To be specific, it was Chicon 2000, the 2000 Worldcon. The Guest Of Honor book for Chicon 2000 was The Chicon Sampler, a two-sided book reminiscent of the old Ace Doubles. One side was featured sketches from Artist Guest Of Honor Bob Eggleton (and I’m surprised that there was only one Godzilla sketch in the batch). On the other side were contributions from all of the other GOHs — an ad for Baen Books for Jim Baen (the Editor Guest Of Honor), short stories from Ben Bova (the Guest Of Honor) and Harry Turtledove (the Toastmaster), and a collection of recipes from Bob and Anne Passovoy, the Fan Guests Of Honor.
According to The Chicon Sampler, these recipes were excerpts from “Bob And Anne’s Fannish All-Star Cookbook.” If there is a full version of this cookbook, I would love to get my hands on a copy, because the recipes that appeared in The Chicon Sampler all looked great. But I digress . . .
The recipe that is of particular interest here is one called “Sweet Cream Biscuits.” I’ve made them several times, and it is a very simple biscuit recipe. If I’m remembering correctly (I don’t have the recipe with me at the moment), the recipe was described as being foolproof.
As I looked over both the scone and biscuit recipes, I decided that I wanted to see what the results would be if I Frankensteined the recipe for Sweet Cream Biscuits into one for Sweet Cream Scones. And after a trip to Kroger (I don’t normally have cream in my refrigerator), I entered my laboratory.
SWEET CREAM SCONES
2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
3/4 cup Heavy Cream (or Whipping Cream)
1. Preheat oven to 451 degrees Fahrenheit (or 233 degrees Celsius).
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
3. In a small bowl, beat the egg, then add the cream.*
4. Add the egg/cream mixture to the dry ingredients, mix well. If dough is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup additional cream.
5. With floured hands, pull off golf ball-size balls of dough. Flatten balls into rounds, and place on ungreased baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with butter (or whatever else you like).
YIELD: 12 scones
*I combined the egg and cream because I thought it was easier than adding the two ingredients separately. If for some reason you feel the need to add the egg, and then the cream, feel free to do so.
The scones had a fairly dense texture. I probably could have eaten the whole batch in one sitting, but I managed to exercise a modicum of self-control.
I’m guessing that these scones would lend themselves as well to embellishment as those in Ms. Fain’s recipe. That, however, will be the subject for another venture into my laboratory.
Yesterday, I noticed that LiveJournal had this as their Writer’s Block question: “Describe your perfect pizza.” Okay, so technically that isn’t a question, but most of the time, they do take the form of a question. In any event, It started me thinking about what I would put on my perfect pizza.
That’s not easy. There are some things that I know I would always put on my idea of the perfect pizza, but there are other things that I might or might not put on the pizza, depending on my mood at the time.
The crust is easy. I like a thick-crust pizza — the thicker the better. I don’t have anything against thin-crust pizza; I just prefer something that’s substantial and chewy. And since I like to put a lot of stuff on my pizza, a crust that will hold up under all those toppings is essential.
As for the sauce, I almost always go with your standard tomato-based sauce. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t play around with the sauce. If I’m in a creative mood, I will top the crust with a tomato sauce, then add a spoonful of Alfredo sauce, or cheddar cheese sauce, or even honey mustard sauce, then swirl the two sauces around before adding any toppings.
Now, the one topping that is an absolute must on my idea of the perfect pizza is mushrooms. The more mushrooms, the better. And if multiple varieties of mushrooms are being used, that is better still. My big complaint about most pizza places is that they never put as much mushrooms on a pizza as they do pepperoni.
Other toppings . . . well, that’s where things can change, depending on my whim at the time. I love most meat toppings, so when it comes to meats, almost anything goes. I would probably say no to chorizo or any similarly hot sausage. But bacon, pepperoni, beef, Canadian bacon, chicken, ham — yes to all of them. I’m not that fond of most of the veggie toppings most pizza places offer — other than the aforementioned mushrooms. Tomatoes, definitely. Domino’s offers spinach as a topping, and that sounds pretty good. And Tony Boombozz, a local pizza restaurant here in Louisville, offers potatoes and fresh garlic as toppings, which both sound good. But olives? Onions? No, and no. Bell peppers? HELL, no! Jalapenos? Well, maybe.
As for the cheese, when I make pizza at home, it’s usually a case of I will use whatever cheese I have in the refrigerator at the time. Mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, queso quesadilla, Monterey Jack, parmesan . . . you name it, I’ll probably use it. The more cheese, the better — I like my pizza literally oozing with cheese. I’ve never used brie, and I wonder how well that would work. I don’t think I’ve ever used blue cheese, but in that case, it’s because I didn’t have any on hand when I was making a pizza.
Okay, now I think I’ve put myself in the mood to make some pizza . . .
This recipe came from my grandmother. I have no idea where she got it; she was making it as long as I can remember. And it wouldn’t surprise me all that much if she had been making this before I was ever born.
Likewise, I have no idea where the name “Hollywood Pie” came from. I just did a quick search on Google, and the first couple of recipes I found with that name bear no resemblance to my grandmother’s recipe — or to each other, for that matter.
I remember that this pie was probably my cousin Leigh’s favorite dessert when we were growing up. When my grandmother died, I think there was a general consensus that Leigh was going to be the one to get the Hollywood Pie recipe. Somewhere along the line, though, my mom also got a copy.
A couple of months ago, I read an entry here on IReallyLikeFood where the writer shared a favorite pie recipe of her grandfather’s. For whatever reason, the entry and the recipe triggered a few memories, and among other things, it made me want to get this particular recipe and make it. So, I emailed my dad, and I asked him if they had the Hollywood Pie recipe. I knew that even if my parents didn’t have it, they could quickly get it. Leigh is one of their neighbors, and all I would have to do would tell Dad to check with her, because I know she has to have it.
As it turned out, my parents do have the recipe, because a day or two later, I got an email from Dad with the recipe as an attachment. I haven’t made it just yet, but I wanted to share it here.
Graham Cracker Crust:
1/3 C. Butter
1 C. Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 T. Sugar
Melt butter; mix with graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Press into pie pan and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
[Or you could do what I will probably do, and use a pre-baked graham cracker crust.]
4 eggs, separated
1 stick butter, melted
1-1/4 C. sugar
1 T. flour
1/3 C. condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1. Beat egg yolks well.
2. Mix with butter, sugar, flour and milk. Cook until thick. Add vanilla.
3. Pour cooled mixture into crust. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
4. Beat egg whites. Top pie with beaten egg whites and graham cracker crumbs. Bake until brown.
Like I said, I’m going to have to make this soon, and see if I can make it as well as my grandmother did.