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Archive for September, 2011

It’s my birthday weekend so I thought I’d take this week off from the blog, especially since we’re in Santa Rosa for a golf tournament held in memory of our nephew. We were driving all yesterday afternoon and evening and then working the tournament today (well, I’m working and Jay is golfing … lucky). But yesterday I got something that gave me a great idea for a post, and maybe many others in the future. I received a handcrafted birthday card at work, signed by 40 or so people in my department. One of our talented designers, Jon LeBars, creates all the artwork for these cards, and gets his inspiration for each card from a list of ‘favorite things’ each employee creates. My list contains some of my favorite things: Billy Squier, crab, chocolate mousse, Curious George, blue carnival glass and books with funny titles. I have a collection of books with crazy titles that I display in our game room at home. Stuff like “My Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun,” or “Blue Eye Shadow Should Be Illegal,” and my personal favorite “Nobody Likes a Drunken Indian.”

So this birthday card gave me a great idea: when I can’t figure out which one of Mary Ann’s casserole dishes to make fun of, I can make fun of one of my crazy book titles, complete with a photo and everything. Hopefully their authors don’t read my blog. As if.

So Jon created my birthday card with a graphic of a Billy record album on the front (of course) and inside was this awesome book cover:

I think I’ve just found a new name for this blog.

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“Ewww Mommy” is a phrase that played over and over in my head as a child while sitting at the dinner table. Usually this was due to a dish that contained cream of mushroom soup, or hot dogs, or bell peppers. However, later in life I learned of a word that sounded exactly the same: “umami.” It’s a Japanese word that describes the phenomenon known as “deliciousness.”

For you foodies out there who have never heard of umami before, let me enlighten you. Wait a minute – as if foodies would actually read this blog, I don’t think there are any recipes here that a true foodie would be interested in … well, maybe the Gourmet Top Ramen. Perhaps they’d prepare it with a little truffle oil to make it fancy.

In the late ‘90s I worked in Marketing for Robert Mondavi in the Napa Valley. It was a great place — we’d have Wine Tasting meetings at 9:00 in the morning. Of course after we tasted each wine, we were supposed to spit it out. I can’t speak for everyone, but I did because I’m not fond of wine (remember, beer snob). I will say it gave me an appreciation for wine, and when confronted with only wine choices, I will lean towards a lovely Sangiovese. Our Marketing Team once had to attend a training hosted by Mondavi’s Sommelier at the time (that’s fancy for Wine Wizard). Essentially, he wanted to teach us that it wasn’t necessary to limit wine choices with food — that we weren’t required to have red wine only with beef and white wine only with chicken or fish. Oh yes, it’s true. He reviewed the four taste components: salt, sour, bitter and sweet. Then we were served various meat dishes with red or white wine. Then he’d have us add salt to the dish and then have us drink the opposing red or white wine to show us that one wine was just as lovely as the other. It was very educational. During the training, he introduced us to the fifth, and mostly unknown, taste: “umami.” He defined it as deliciousness. Imagine your favorite food … the one that makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and the one that makes you close your eyes and say “MMMMMM” when you’re eating it. That’s umami baby.

Perhaps you’re now all curious of what I consider umami. This is a small list:

Crab
Malfatti (watch for this post in the future)
Chocolate Mousse
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Orange Chicken
Eggs Benedict
The first ripe tomato from my garden

And this is a very small list of my “Ewww Mommy” foods:

Chili
Bell Peppers
Cauliflower
Garbanzo Beans
Turnips
Coconut
Strawberries
Kidney Beans
Pineapple Juice
Prune Juice
Sauerkraut
Lima Beans

There are about a thousand foods I don’t like. I’m a very discriminating eater. But if I like something, I REALLY like it. Take crab for instance. If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing, it would be crab. Then again, I did see “Castaway.” So maybe not. But for now, it’s still my number one umami food. I don’t remember the first time I had crab. It certainly wasn’t as a child — the only seafood my Dad could handle on the table was fish sticks. My only memory of crab is this:

That’s one of my favorite books from childhood. It’s lasted all these years.

Every time I fix crab legs now, Jay will actually wait to eat so he can watch me take that first bite. It’s always a spiritual experience and I “ooh” and “aah” like an audience member on “Wheel of Fortune”. When John-boy was home with us and I’d make crab, I’d ration out the crab legs (always giving him just a little more, because that’s how unselfish I am). We would scarf them down blissfully and then we’d fight over any tiny little pieces that we could find hiding on the serving plate.

Last week my sister, Tracy, and I treated our nephew, Logan, to the Family Fun Center for the go-carts and kid-gambling (video games that spit out tickets). Forty-something dollars later after he cashed in 745 tickets for a squeezey ball, a light-up spinning top and five pieces of candy, we headed over to Red Lobster. Logan wanted to try crab because he liked some ‘crab’ puffs he tried at a Chinese restaurant earlier in the month, and because he had heard me rave about crab. He’s a great eater and will try (and like) just about everything. I wasn’t sure he’d like crab, especially since I didn’t have a lot of faith in the crab that might be served up at Red Lobster (no offense Red Lobster, I’m just a snob). Logan and I shared a big plate of shrimp scampi, salmon and snow crab. Here’s the verdict on the crab:

(For the record, that isn’t a beer bottle next to Logan’s plate—it’s an IBC root beer. Though a beer bottle was in front of my plate. Yes, Tracy was driving.)

I was able to salvage about one measly crab leg for myself, as Logan was devouring them, and having fun cracking the shells. But I was thrilled — thrilled that he loved crab as much as I do, and thrilled that I was able to see him enjoy crab for the first time. I can’t wait to get some Alaskan king crab legs and prepare them for him with some clarified butter. Oooo Mommy!!!

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Labor Day Weekend signifies the end of summer. Not really though—summer isn’t officially over until September 21st, but you know how we Americans like to get ready early. Just like how the big box stores stuff the shelves with Christmas decorations by October. Actually I’ve already seen some holiday things in stores. Forget buying anything for Halloween, you’re probably too late.

To honor the last weekend of summer, you better get ready for your final BBQ. Hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken—hopefully shrimp if you’re inviting me over. If you don’t feel like BBQ’ing, maybe you could prepare this fancy dish my Mom used to make—Hot Dog Surprise. And oh what a surprise it is. I imagine quite a few of you might like this one. That just freaks me out. I know, you all love your hot dogs. I bet you like chili on them, too. That’s like the worst thing I can imagine. In addition to everything on Andrew Zimmern’s show, hot dogs with chili is something I will never eat. I can’t even talk about how some people put sauerkraut on them, it’s too upsetting.

My Mom liked to have fun at dinner sometimes and she came up with this one to liven up our dinner table. I don’t remember if she found this recipe or conjured it up herself—either way…torture. I couldn’t stand hot dogs and this was a death sentence. There was no separate little dish prepared especially for me on Hot Dog Surprise night. There might’ve been some canned spinach if I was really lucky. I’m the only one in my family who liked spinach back then. Oh yeah, I like spinach prepared every way possible. I even eat it cold out of the can. I take it back, I love spinach prepared every way EXCEPT for creamed spinach. Can you blame me…

If you’ve decided to keep reading to discover the magical Hot Dog Surprise recipe, then I guess I better provide it—against my better judgment.

Ingredients:

8 hot dogs, or 6, however they package them these days
8 hot dog buns, or 6, however they package them these days
1 chopped medium onion
2 TBS oil
3 TBS flour
1 tsp salt
½ Cup ketchup
½ Cup water
½ Cup shredded cheese

Scoop out some of each hot dog bun and set it aside. I’m not sure why…maybe you can throw it in a plastic bag and save it to feed the ducks. Chop up the hot dogs and sauté them with onion in oil until browned. Stir in flour, salt, ketchup and water. Cook for five minutes. Add cheese and heave, I mean “heat” for another minute. Spoon that slop into hollowed out buns. Wrap them separately in foil, place them all in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. You’ll need to make sure to bake them a few extra minutes so the foil burns and sticks to each bun. What you’ll end up with is a bunch of dried out hot dog buns with nasty stuff in them. I can still remember watching my family devour these; well, whatever I could see through my tears.

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