Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

the day when it's perfectly acceptable to play with your produce!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghosts in the Graveyard

This was a classic example of a "back of the box" or magazine advertisement recipe. Simple to make, approachable ingredients, and oh so fun to eat.

If I recall correctly, we even added some gummy worms into the dirt for a bit more creep factor. Easy to do when your Mom has a store with a candy counter!!!

There are many great spooky desert ideas out there for Halloween - the cupcake variations alone are amazing!!!

If you are looking to put together your own Halloween feast, Family Fun has a great list of creepy spooky recipe ideas to cover every course of the meal. Most are family friendly to make and serve, but also are a great starting point for creating your own creepy goodness. Better Homes and Gardens is another ghoulish resource.

Happy Haunting!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Head of Medusa

Boy do I wish I had a picture of this dish.

This dish all started when my sister Terri and I found a package of Squid Ink Pasta. Now I don't remember where we bought it - but I do remember thinking it would make a great Halloween Dish - just with red sauce.

Terri thought it looked kind of like Medusa's snake hair.

So she got ambitious.

She made some bread dough. Then she inverted a pyrex mixing bowl onto a baking sheet. She covered the bowl with foil (and I think sprayed it with cooking spray), and then proceeded to mold a bread bowl of Medusa's face and a few snakes out of bread. The whole thing went into the oven to bake.

After it was baked, she flipped it over, cooked the pasta, tossed it with red sauce and filled the "head" with the black pasta.

It was deliciously creepy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dem Dry Bones

These aren't really "dry" - but they make great spooky body parts!
And they have bacon - everything's good with bacon!!!


* 1 box sesame seed breadsticks
* 1 lb. bacon
* grated Parmesan cheese - probably about 1/2 cup.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wrap breadsticks in uncooked bacon. (frugal note - you can stretch the bacon further by cutting it in half lengthwise down each strip. You will be able to wrap more breadsticks but they won't be as tightly covered in the bacon. Up to you.)

Place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and bake for 30 minutes. (I like to cover mine with aluminum foil for this -makes clean up easier)

Put the Parmesan cheese in a shallow dish. Roll each stick through the cheese while still hot.

Allow to cool and crisp, then serve.

...there are a lot of variations of this recipe out there in cyber land. Different kinds of breadsticks, some with garlic (keeps those vampires away), and some with different baking temperatures.

But they've all got bacon -so they all must be good, right?

Monday, October 27, 2008

"I Want To Drink Your Blood"

When you are having a spooky Halloween dinner, of course the punch MUST be red. And what better way to serve red punch than in bottles with old style "blood bank" labels on them.

This recipe will make both + (spiked) and - (un-spiked) versions, so be sure to label your bottles accordingly.

Regina's Quick and Easy Red Punch

1 bottle cranberry juice
1 bottle club soda

(spike with your choice of alcohol - or you can swap things out and use red wine in place of the cranberry to make a wine punch)
Serve in a carafe (ours are recycled wine bottles) - with a "blood bank" label on them.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's In Your Cauldron?

A few years back, Matt and I hosted a Halloween Party. We asked each guest to bring a "spooky" dish to pass, and then labeled each one with a big manila "specimen" tag, giving the spooky name of the dish as well as a goofy made up Latin name for it.

It was loads of fun.

Unfortunately it was loads of fun pre-digital camera, and I have no idea where the prints and/or negatives are from that event. I hung on to the tags for a long long time, but think I finally let them go.

At any rate - in the spirit of Halloween we thought we'd share some "spooky" recipes with you all this week. Some are things we have made again, some are memories from that party.

Our first one is "Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts" - better known in non-Halloween (or non-elementary school) circles as Sausage Stew.

This dish was provided by one of our guests - and was DEELICIOUS!
Unfortunately he never shared the recipe - so I went hunting online for one instead.

And I found this one.
It even has pumpkin in it - for those of you looking for ways to recycle Jack's innards.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On the Shelf - "The Joy of Cooking"

When I first started learning to cook, recipes came in one of three places - handwritten recipe cards in a number of well worn magnetic photo albums (where most of mom's best cookie recipes still are), the back of the product package (Rice Krispies and Nestle Toll House Morsels were the two biggies here), or a cookbook.

Today the proliferation of cookbooks, online recipe collection websites, and just great "word of blog" recipes is almost overwhelming. Nevermind almost - it IS overwhelming. It's also a treasure trove of yummy goodness.

And yet I am still attracted to the cookbook - the book you can hold on your lap curled up in a chair with a cuppa and browse through - the book you can prop open on the counter as you figure out the next step in making something new - the book you can use as a booster seat when little people need to sit at the table.

Our cookbook collection is not huge - at least not by Matt's mother's standards - and some books are referenced more than others - but as the infrequent-cooking member of this blogging trio, I thought I would bring you the occasional book review, proven recipe - or even some of the droolicious recipes we've read about but not yet tried.

So grab your cuppa - here we go with our first one.

"The Joy of Cooking"

WOW - this book has been around for 75 years now!!! And to be honest - some of the recipes in it read "old fashioned" - but they have been doing an awesome job of keeping it up to date and relevant.

I will admit that I have not made many full "recipes" from this book - but it is an awesome reference on "how to use" a lot of ingredients. Had a sudden windfall of brussel sprouts? This book will tell you how to prep them for cooking. Need to boil an egg? You'll get a clear explanation of soft and hard boiling, as well as poaching and all sorts of other things to do with eggs.
Tried and tested. Dependable. And thick enough to make a good booster!
This one gets a five spoon rating on my scale of must have books.

Friday, October 24, 2008

east buffalo chicken

We like Buffalo wings just as much as anyone. The problem I have with them is that you end up paying a heckuva lot of money for not a lot of meat. And don't even get me started on dealing with chicken wing bones...

So here's our improved version... lots of meat, lots of flavor (lots of spice!) and no bones. We call it "East Buffalo Chicken" because, well, we live East of Buffalo, and we live on East Buffalo Street. Cool, eh?

East Buffalo Chicken
(serves two)
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into wide strips*
pure olive oil
3 Tbsp hot sauce (use your favorite)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Louisiana Seasoning ver. 2.0 (find recipe here)

*okay, I'm cheating here. We like to keep a bag of frozen chicken breast tenderloins in the freezer for a variety of dishes. These bags o' chicken can be found at your local wholesale warehouse-style store, and sometimes at your local grocery store. You could also do what Bobby and Shelly do and pick up extra chicken when you see a good price, and pop it in the freezer.

I like the frozen tenderloins because I can drop them in pan frozen, and they STILL cook up quickly. What can I say, I'm all about the easy.

1. Heat about a tablespoon, or two, of pure olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to ripple slightly, carefully place the chicken in the skillet to cook. While the chicken cooks, sprinkle a generous amount of the Louisiana seasoning over the chicken.
2. When the one side is cooked, flip the chicken and hit the other side with the seasoning. Continue cooking until it's almost done.
3. Now, take your utensil of choice (I prefer a slightly flat-edged spoon) and go medieval on the chicken to break it up into bite-sized pieces. Let the chicken finish cooking.
4. Move the chicken to the outside of the skillet, and drop in the butter to melt.
5. Add the hot sauce, stir just to combine, and turn off the heat. It's like this... further heating will cause the butter to seperate and leave your sauce very oily instead of creamy (the sauce will "break"... yup, that's a cooking term for "fail". Use it sometime, and watch the looks you get.).
6. Serve and enjoy!
We like to serve the chicken over steamed white rice, with a big honkin' (that's a technical term) dollop of bleu cheese dressing. Serve up a side of your choice and you're good to go.
(that's spinach saddled up next to the chicken right there.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

easy sides: rosemary roasted potatoes with garlic

We have one little "thing" in our household... I like potatoes, and Regina, well, let's just say that she'd rather eat something else. So you could imagine my joy when Regina came back from a local farm market and handed me a sack containing a bunch of red potatoes. And yes, she was smiling.

Here's my really simple-quick and dee-licious way to prepare them, even for a weeknight.

And if you were wondering, these are "Regina-approved"... so I got that going for me... which is nice.
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Garlic

small potatoes, about 3-4 per person
3-4 fresh rosemary sprigs, stripped and loosely chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (fresh is best, but "jarlic" works great for this dish.)
pure olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (makes clean up that much easier... I said this was an "easy side."

2. Wash and coarse dice the potatoes. There's a whole lotta flavor in those skins, so leave 'em on. If you want to save time and dice the taters in advance, just be sure to store them in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from oxidizing, and be sure to drain them well before continuing.
3. Add the drained potatoes to a mixing bowl. I LOVE red taters.
4. Add the rosemary, garlic, a few grinds of pepper, a few pinches of kosher salt, and then drizzle on about 1-2 Tbsp. of the olive oil.
5. Stir to combine.
6. Spread the taters out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, being sure to spread everything out to a single layer.

I noticed that there just wasn't enough black pepper in it already, so I added just a bit more... and a bit more salt... and a bit of dried parsley.
7. Roast at 400°F for about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. We have a convection oven (swanky!), so it only took about 20 minutes.
8. When done, move the hot taters to a serving bowl, and um, serve.These were so good, that I was thinking about making these up some Sunday morning (we can shift the waffles to dinner) and serving them with eggs and country sausage. Mmmm... tastygood.

We had enough taters for two meals, so a few nights later, I traded the rosemary for dill and parsley and it came out great. Explore your herbs and spices, come up with a few variations of your own... just don't forget to share.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Building Tastebud Memories

It never ceases to amaze me how powerfully the senses of taste and smell are connected to our memories. I think that must be why we turn to favorite recipes from childhood - especially around the holidays - those little mouthfuls of memories that take us back to the magic of the season as it was when we were young.

Matt's pretzels from yesterday's post were more than just a tasty treat last holiday season, they were a special memory for me. It was not exactly a holiday memory - but these big puffy soft hot pretzels brought back memories of my own childhood attempt at pretzels, straight out of Cricket Magazine - of which I was an avid reader. I still have them all - from Volume I Issue I on up for about 5 years. I am saving them to share with the Munchkin when he is old enough - and I hope that he finds as much enjoyment in them as I did.

In the meantime, we are starting to share the kitchen with the Munchkin, giving him more and more of a role in "helping" as we cook, create, and consume, starting to build his own Tastebud Memories.

I wonder, when he grows, what taste or smell will bring him back to his childhood? I am sure it won't be the same as mine, or Matt's or Bobby's.

What is your tastebud memory?

Friday, October 17, 2008

golden brown & delicious

Note: This is another repost from my MattTheWebguy blog. It kinda explains my "condition". Hope you enjoy it!

After a weekend of holiday prep, cooking and baking (and a few days of a nasty tension headache), I hung up the apron for an enjoyable Christmas Day with Regina and Boomper, the Boy Wonder.

But after making "Southern" Russian Teacakes, a crock pot full of three-bean chili, a pot of Greens 'n Beans soup, a pot of Chicken Soup with Orzo, Chocolate AND Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffles, a huge gingerbread cookie boy, and two other doughs that I just ran out of time to bake (but will be a nice treat next month), the day off of cooking left me with a bit of cook's withdrawal.

As Boomper and I sat on the living room floor, playing with the Mr. Potato Heads that Santa left under the tree, I spied one of the many accessories Aunt Cathy brought back from Disneyworld: a small plastic Mickey-shaped soft pretzel. I had found my inspiration...

I soon set forth to track down the recipe I remembered from the "Pretzel Logic" episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats on Food Network. With printed page in hand, I presented my idea to Regina, and then headed to the kitchen to make sure I had everything I needed. We decided to have them with dinner, so I had some time to plan and prep.

A few hours before dinner, I started the dough. I gave up on 'active dry' yeast a long time ago in favor of instant yeast. I like the instant yeast because when I'm making pizza dough, or baking bread in the bread machine, it can be added to the dry ingredients. No proofing necessary.

This recipe called for for proofing the active dry yeast in lukewarm (who WAS Luke, and why was he always so-so warm?!?), salt and sugar, so I decided to proof the instant yeast. I swear I could hear the little yeasties burpin' and tootin' (well, that's what they do). Soon the yeast was nice and foamy, and ready for the flour and melted butter.

After a thorough mixing, kneading and a one-hour rise, the dough was ready to be portioned, rolled, and pretzeled.

Now comes the science. Prior to baking, each pretzel took a 30-second dip in pan of boiling water-baking soda solution. Dipping each pretzel in this slightly "basic" solution, helps the pretzel brown to a deeper mahoghany finish, helping the pretzel look more like a pretzel, and less like a funky-shaped dinner roll.

Each pretzel then got a quick brushing of eggwash, and a sprinkle of Kosher salt, and then into the oven. Yes, pretzel salt is ideal, but I wasn't planning on heading to the grocery store just for it. Maybe on my next trip.

The picture above is all that is needed to tell of the end result. That, and the "yummy" I got from Boomper. That one makes it all worthwhile.

If at all possible, keep an eye out in your TV listing for this episode of Good Eats, as it has a great explanation on the whole process, in a rather entertaining way. And follow the link below for the recipe and instructions: Good Eats Homemade Soft Pretzels

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

trains, planes, automobiles... and sausage?!?

Note: This is a repost from the MattTheWebguy blog, and the post that inspired Hope you like it!

There comes a time (almost) every afternoon that I ask my Sweetie these same four words... "Any ideas for dinner?" This roughly translates to "What would you like me to make tonight?", since I do about 90-95% of the cooking in the house.

I cook for the love and challenge of it. I've always had this goal to make someone say, "This is better than my Grandma's!", and hope that Grandma had mad skills in the kitchen. I have no desire to change careers and head off to culinary school and then sweat it out in the kitchen of some tyrannical chef with an ego the size of a Buick. I DO joke around with my Sweetie about moving to a semi-quirky town in the Adirondacks, opening a diner, hiring a middle-aged waitress that calls everyone "Hon" and never lets your coffee cup go dry, and just cook like no tomorrow. Maybe someday...

Sorry, got a bit off-track... back to tonight's creation...

Like most nights that aren't planned (we actually do plan a fair amount of dinners 'round here), I like the challenge of the Pantry Raid. I enjoy rifling through our pantry shelves, fridge and freezer, and seeing what I can create without too many special ingredients. I believe I do a fairly good job at working with what's on hand.

Off track again? sorry.

Tonight's dinner kinda started with a special ingredient, (but it was gifted to us, so it doesn't count): three beautiful homegrown yellow tomatoes from my Mother's garden. The tomatoes, along with the request for a pasta toss type dish got me thinking.... and then the raid began.

Here's what I pulled together...

3 yellow tomatoes, coarse diced (Thanks, Mom!)
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (is there any other?)
1 Tbsp pure olive oil (save the extra virgin stuff for salad dressings)
1/2 bag of frozen cut-leaf spinach, thawed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
3 precooked Italian sausage links, grilled (I broiled them) and sliced on the bias (ours were a local brand that can be ordered from here - they ship!)
dried oregano
dried parsley
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

And then "the pasta". We usually use Barilla Pasta Plus because it actually has flavor. Oh, and it's better for you than straight semolina pastas. But for tonight, we found some motorized vehicle shaped pasta we got for Christmas last year from my Sweetie's folks (CORRECTION: the pasta was a gift from my Sweetie's sister... thanks Sue!) It was the perfect pasta for all of us to enjoy, even Boomper (aka Munchkin). He's not big on the dishes I come up with, but give him some pasta with butter and parmesan ("Shakey") cheese, and he's one happy little boy.

So, here's how I put it all together... (FINALLY!)

1. Cook the pasta (al dente) in a large pot of salted water.
2. Sweat the onion in the butter, olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a crank or two of fresh ground black pepper. As the onion just becomes translucent, add the garlic to brown slightly.
3. Add the sausage, and brown slightly. The grilling (broiling) adds some great flavor to the dish.
4. Add the spinach and combine.
5. Season to taste with the oregano, parsley, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
6. Once it's all together and warmed through, cut the heat and toss in the tomatoes (so you don't bruise the fresh flavor). Give a quick toss and get ready to plate it up.

Plate up the drained pasta, spoon the sausage-tomato-spinach combination over the top, and finish it off with fresh grated parmesan.

As I placed her pasta bowl in front of her, my Sweetie said "wow" and immediately snapped these two photos. Here's the aerial shot...

A chiffonade of fresh basil would have been killer, but our basil went to seed and is rather bitter now. And "yes", the parsley is for style points.

Almost forgot.... I took a two-day old baguette, sliced it on the bias in 1/2" slices, spread them out on a baking sheet, brushed on some olive oil, sprinkled on fresh coarse ground black pepper and parmesan (some slice also received a slice of fresh tomato and more cheese and pepper, and then under the broiler it went for about two minutes. Nice addition to the meal.

So... any ideas for dinner?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fine Weather Fare

Around these parts (Matt and I live in Western NY), autumn "falls" pretty quickly, and by Columbus Day weekend we have very often had our first hard killing frost, and sometimes even our first snow flurries.

This year we had the unexpected luxury of a later frost, a relatively balmy September (ok - there were a few days that were downright cold and miserable), and a furnace that did not get turned on until last weekend. We also experienced a picture perfect Columbus Day weekend - blue sky, low humidity, enough breeze to rustle leaves but not be annoying, and best of all - warm temperatures. T-shirt and shorts warm. Picnic lunch warm.

Our attention this weekend has been on the yard, the gardens, and the garage - getting everything cleaned up, put up, and organized (although the Munchkin enjoyed some good quality sandbox time, too), and food has been somewhat of an afterthought (gasp!)...

Fortunately for us, Matt's Saturday Night Pizza (tease... you will have to wait for that recipe) made plenty for leftovers, so we grabbed the container, a bag-o-chips, a few beverages, and the last remains of last year's order of Girl Scout cookies (need to make room for a fresh shipment), and converged on the Munchkin's Little Tikes picnic table for what is probably our last family picnic of 2008.

At least our last 'outdoor' picnic. We sometimes do these inside, too - in the middle of the living room - converged around another one of his little tables.

Picnics, they are good for the spirit!
So in the spirit of Columbus Day - today's recipe is to have a picnic - the menu is up to you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"ah-YEE, that good 'n spicy, I guarantee!"

Okay, time for a quick recipe for a wonderful addition to your spice rack... Louisiana Seasoning.

The original recipe I used was Chef Emeril Lagasse's Essence seasoning. I came across the recipe while reading through Julia Child's "Cooking With Master Chefs", a gift from Regina one Christmas.

I mixed up the first batch, and soon after we started using, we found it rather salty. I cut back on the salt, and beefed up the paprika, and we've been pretty happy with it since. We use it a wide variety of dishes, and especially in our East Buffalo Chicken (coming soon... really!).

"ah-YEE." That's Cajun for "Youbetcha."

Louisiana Seasoning ver. 2.0

1 Tbsp. kosher salt
4 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. dried thyme

Combine and store in an airtight container (a small Mason jar works works great) and use on dang-near anything... although I tend to stop before I reach for the ice cream. Just remember to give it a quick shake each time you use it.-Matt

Thursday, October 9, 2008

guest chef

Today we are honored to have with us one of the most influential chefs in ALL of our lives.

Yes, that's right, the Swedish Chef. Enjoy! Bork bork bork!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

... 'cuz I eats me spinach...

Spinach is good. Spinach is good for you. Spinach is high in iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E, K, and if there was a vitamin S, well, it would be in there too. Spinach in large quantities will give you forearms like this guy. Okay, not really on the last one.

Well, that's all the good stuff about spinach. Yup, it's the "wonder veggie" alright.... right up to the point where you realize spinach has a natural adhesive quality in stress-related situations. Been there? Who hasn't.

And that's not the only problem: steamed spinach doesn't have much in the way of flavor. There, I said it.

So, how to solve the sticking problem AND give make it bit more enjoyable? Give this quick and easy recipe a try.

Not-In-My-Teeth Spinach
(serves two)

8 oz. frozen cut-leaf spinach (1/2 bag)*
2-3 tsp olive oil**
1 Tbsp minced garlic ("jarlic" is just fine here.)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

* frozen block spinach can be used, but will take longer to thaw in the microwave
** use pure olive oil to cook with, and save your fruity "EVOO" for salads (sorry Rachael, it can't handle the heat, and the flavor can overpower a dish).
1. Place the frozen spinach in 2-quart microwave-safe bowl, cover and nuke on high for one (1) minute.

2. After one minute, remove from the microwave. The spinach won't be completely thawed. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with the salt and pepper.

3. Add the garlic (oh yeah!).4. Stir, stir, stir. Cover, return to the microwave, and nuke on high for 1-1/2 minutes.

Serving Suggestion: Well gee, you can serve this side with pretty much any entree. This time we chose to sit it along side our East Buffalo Chicken (coming soon to a food blog near you).Feel free to season your spinach any way you wish. Personally, I had a hard time keeping the parmesan off it this time... didn't want it to conflict with the bleu cheese.


Monday, October 6, 2008

The Kitchen's Getting Crowded...

Introducing the third member of our "Any Ideas for Dinner?" team...
(just picture him a bit older -with a beard!)

Name: Bobby
First Cooking Memories:
Mom's mandated "Kid's Cook Night" -- pancakes, tacos -- repeat.
Cooking Influences:
Family recipes, discovering the flavors of other parts of the world, and cooking for friends -- the more people I have to cook for, the more elaborate my meals get.
Favorite Go-To Recipe: Anything on the grill
Favorite Spice: That's like picking a favorite kid. (Ancho chili powder, you're the best kid.)
"If I were on a deserted island with one food it would be..." Hickory smoked pulled pork BBQ

Sunday, October 5, 2008

comfort food: lentils & pasta

comfort food: food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Ah, comfort food... the woobie of the culinary world. Everyone has their own special dish that just feels right when you don't. Be it a rough week, a rainy day, an illness or a heartache, comfort food is the warm hug when Mom can't be there.

Comfort food is easy to prepare, usually contains only a few ingredients, and is relatively inexpensive. I consider our comfort food ingredients to be staples in our kitchen, and at any time, I'm sure I could produce at least four different comforting dishes.

We have a number of dishes that fit the bill, and we'll be sharing them, well, when we need them ourselves (easier on the digital camera and pantry that way). The first one up is one of those concoctions that have morphed from the original way that Regina's family prepared it. And it couldn't be a simpler meal.

Here we go...

Lentils & Pasta
(serves four)

8 oz. Barilla Plus Multigrain Rotini*
1 can Progresso 99% Fat-Free Lentil Soup, or similar
small handful of baby-cut carrots, bias cut
parmesan cheese**, shredded or grated
fresh ground black pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

* The Barilla Plus is a fantastic product for dishes with heavy sauces. It's a sturdy, yet tasty pasta, and dog-gone-it, it's better for you than regular pasta. Rotini holds the sauce best, but we have been know to use whatever pasta is on hand.

** Okay, I got a little fancy here and picked up a shredded parmesan/romano blend. nice.

1. Cook the pasta to 'al dente' (follow the box time) in one gallon of boiling water, with one tablespoon of kosher salt. Try not to overcook the pasta, as it is going to absorb a fair amount of moisture from the sauce.

2. While the pasta is cooking, and this is the tough part, empty the can of soup into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the sliced carrots, cover and nuke on high for four (4) minutes. If your microwave-safe bowl does not have a well-fitting lid, just cover it tightly with plastic wrap, but be sure to poke a few holes in it to allow steam to escape (Note: If you "need" comfort food, I don't think you'll be wanting to clean out your microwave oven). If you don't have a microwave oven, just heat up the soup in a medium saucepan on the stove.

(See what I did there? I just hinted that it's possible this recipe could be prepared while either camping or if the power goes out... provided you have a gas stove... or campfire...wait, that's another post....sorry... continue as you were... )

3. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and move to bowls. Ladle the heated soup over the pasta. Wipe drool off camera.
(sorry, still working on my macro photography.)

4. Add the parmesan.. a LOT of parmesan... as we say 'round these parts, "Let it snow!" Add fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
5. Enjoy! Now wasn't that easy?

Serving suggestion: Bowl and spoon make it much easier to eat when curled up on the couch. Add a little bread. I picked up some of Boomper's favorite "round breads" on the way home from work.

As far as beverage pairings with this dish, I say "comfort with comfort". This dish was wonderful with an Ithaca Beer Co. Nut Brown Ale. For other beer pairings, I'll defer to our resident brewmaster, BobbyC.

What's YOUR idea of comfort food? We'd like to hear from you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

support your local diner

It's Friday. It's the end of a long week. You DON'T feel like cooking. What to do? WHAT TO DO?!? It's times like this that the answer may only be a few blocks away...

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to your local diner? You know, the one on the corner by the post office. Yeah, that one.

With the landscape being overrun by mediocre national chains, your local diner has become the oasis of good food that is relatively inexpensive. Now I'll confess, and tell you that we got caught up in the chain trend, and were neglecting our national culinary heritage. But we are making a major attempt to patronize as many local diners as possible. In fact, we will probably be at one tonight.

And it's food you can trust, because it's the closest you'll ever get to home. Look at the variety: real meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade soups, Friday fish fry, tall stacks of pancakes, perfectly cooked bacon, turkey dinner any time, the only truly bottomless cup of coffee (in those heavy coffee cups that fit perfectly in your hand) and of course, you just gotta have pie. But don't stop with the standards... stretch out and give the slouvaki or glombki a try.

And it's not just all about the food. The diner is the heart of any community. Folks go to meet, socialize, talk politics, complain about the weather, and plan the next Turnip Festival. It's where you go if you're upset and just need the comfort of a home-cooked meal. It's where the little league goes to celebrate the big championship (that is, if they still have that soda fountain). And it's the best place for that first date... go ahead get your slice of pie with two forks.

But your diner needs your help today, er, tonight. Put away the pots and pans. Push the cookbooks aside. Call your friends. Grab your coat and get in the car. Head to the diner. Step into your little piece of Americana and wait for those beautifully sweet words:

"What can I getcha, hon?"

And don't forget to tip generously.