Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bad Acid Reflux Karma

This is my life now. After 43 years of never having had heartburn or acid reflux as it is so trendily called, I have been stricken. If I also develop restless leg syndrome or irritable bowels I'm going to be really pissed. Last night at dinner with friends one of them mentioned that she had terrible acid reflux. We laughed (mostly me) about what we call the "organ recital". That's when we act like old people and meander through each other's lists of symptoms and recent diagnoses.
I will never laugh about this again. I went home and promptly fell victim to what seemed to be a log being jammed down my throat and wedged in sideways. Poor Travis McGee got me a glass of tea, then cookies, then finally a Zantac after a little medical self-diagnosing with the help of the internets. We only had Zantac because I got it free at CVS on one of my coupon and extra care bucks extravaganzas. See, it does pay to hoard things you're sure you'll never use! Especially when they are free.
Now of course, twenty-four hours later, I am an expert on this dread disease. For instance, two fantastic ways to help relieve the pain are to chew gum (apparently Juicy Fruit is the best), and to drink a glass of water with baking soda in it. I love a cheap, easy fix. And I will never, ever, ever laugh again at someone's unfortunate pain. My bad acid reflux karma has taught me a lesson.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This Is The Life

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Custard Recipe & 10 Ways To Use It

This is my mother's Banana Pudding Recipe. As you can see, it's been around and back and well loved. Contained within this page is one of the best gifts she ever gave me. It's her custard recipe and it is incredibly useful. Here it is without the butter stains and drips:

Heat up 2.5 cups milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Sift together 1 1/4 c. sugar and 2 rounded tbsp. flour and add to milk. Separate 3 egg yolks and add to 1/2 c. milk and mix. Add to sugar and milk mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Keep stirring and turn off heat until mixture thickens. Add 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tsp. vanilla and mix.

Voila! Custard! You will never open a boxed pudding again. This makes enough for a 9 inch pie. So here's how I use it:
  1. Plain custard. In a bowl. By itself. Or straight out of the pan.
  2. In the afforementioned banana pudding.
  3. As a coconut pie by adding coconut. Simple.
  4. In a trifle with pound or angel food cake and any number of additions.
  5. As a Boston Cream Pie filling.
  6. As a lemon or lime custard with juice of two lemons and zest of one.
  7. With rice and a little nutmeg and raisins for rice pudding.
  8. As a filling for crepes with fruit or a drizzle of nutella.
  9. Tiramisu. Soak some ladyfingers in liquor, layer with custard and grate chocolate over the top.
  10. As a filling for cream puffs and eclairs.

So there you have it. Master this recipe and any number of desserts are at your beck and call at a moment's notice. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recreating The New York Times Kitchen Smackdown

For those of you who stop by here regularly (and thank you to you all), you may remember that I was forced, in the Great Debt Wrecking Blitz of 2009, to give up my New York Times delivery. I have survived although it hasn't always been easy. Amazingly, they let you read it for free online. It's not really the same but I'm training myself to like it.

My favorite sections are the Wednesday and Thursday Dining and Styles. I am well and constantly aware that the world is going to hell so I no longer feel guilty for turning to the fluff first. Last week the editors challenged two food writers, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin to create a dinner party for six for less than $50. This didn't include drinks which were provided by guests nor did it include random pantry items like olive oil and butter or spices. The results were judged by Frank Bruni, head NYT restaurant critic, on consecutive weekends. Both writers are accomplished home cooks but not chefs. This was an interesting way to look at pampering guests in two different ways without feeling like you've broken the bank. Some of you may be saying that $8.50 per person is way too high and you could feed six very well for half that. The other half of you are probably thinking there's no way you could turn out a dinner party for that little amount. The point is, no matter which way your thinking goes, it never hurts to set limits on money while going hog wild with creativity which both these women did in spades.

Although both looked fantastic my favorite of the two dinners was Severson's Mexican fiesta. She served carnitas, lime-cilantro slaw, & beans with ceviche and spiced peanuts for an appetizer and a molasses cake with dulce de leche for dessert. Her thinking went that her opponent was better versed in French cooking and would probably go that way so she opted for a spicier, more festive meal. She drug it out through several courses and put in some hands-on touches like homemade tortillas. I decided to replicate the majority of her meal for guests last night. Here is what I did:

I worked Saturday morning. This means I haul my ass to work at 8 am which may surprise you to know is late for me, and work until noon, which means almost one before I get out of there. Anyway, I hied it to the Whole Foods right after to pick up their excellent guacomole that is made in-store. I figured at $5.99 that would be my biggest splurge. While there I actually found some bargains. They had a good-sized jar of tomatillo salsa for $2.69, thereby reducing the need for me to make it, and a big can of spiced peanuts for $3.69. I also bought a tub of pico de gallo and a container of red pepper hummus which was made in-store and on sale for $2.49. I was going to make a chipotle red pepper hummus from scratch so there was another time-saver. Tortilla Strip chips were $1.67/bag so one more thing off the list.

Next was a trip to the ValuMarket. This is a local grocery chain in Louisville that caters to the various immigrant groups that populate our city. Their produce is like a trip to a foreign country as is just the experience of walking around the store listening to all the different languages being spoken. Their hot bar sells a cuban sandwich that is a guilty pleasure all its' own and also empanadas and yucca. The meat section always has goat and chicken feet. It's heaven. I purchased Mexican oregano (.99), Canuela, or Mexican cinnamon (.99), smoked paprika (1.49) and whole cloves (.99) Bargains all! That coupled with a 7lb. Boston Butt Roast for $7.15 and 24 tortillas for $1.49, a bunch of cilantro (.99), a bunch of radishes (1.49) and a Napa cabbage (2.49) and I was set.

Home to cook and nap. I cut up the butt in one-inch chunks like this:

Then added in all the orange zest, garlic, mexican oregano, canuela, etc. like this:
And after several hours of cooking it looked like this:
And it was good. To accompany it I made the Lime-Cilantro Slaw:

And a box of Goya Mexican Rice. Cheating, I know, but I had to fit the nap in somewhere. All together, dinner looked like this:
A rousing success! And a bargain. The guests brought the Corona which was fitting and I made a banana pudding for dessert just because it sounded good. What would you make for your $50 dinner?