The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Looking for Taco Casa nostalgia

I'm about to write a story on the Cincinnati mini-chain, Taco Casa. First restaurant opened about 40 years ago in Hyde Park. Famous for their Tex-Mex, taco salads and this creation called a Tuna Boat (tortilla stuffed with tuna salad, smothered with cheese, ranch dressing, onions and peppers). Any big fans out there who want to talk about their fond memories of Taco Casa? If so, post a comment, e-mail me at cmartin@enquirer.com or call 513-768-8507. Would help me tell the story.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stay away from my brownies and cookies!

Among our many leftovers from Thanksgiving weekend are 2 large bags of pecans. We bought them from my mother-in-law for her chorus fundraiser. While I am obsessed with baking, I am just as obsessed with keeping nuts out of my baked goods. Nothing pains me more than biting into a seemingly pristine chocolate chip cookie, only to find NUTS. But I do like snacking on them, so I think I'm going to try this recipe (modified a bit from recipecottage.com):

Sugar-coated pecans

1 tablespoon egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecan halves purchased from your mother-in-law
1/4 cup sugar (I'm going to use Splenda)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add vanilla and stir. Toss pecans in the egg white mixture, then sprinkle the coated nuts with sugar and cinnamon. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the pecans are browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on waxed paper.

Shopping under the influence

For a story I'm writing, I recently attended a class at EQ, the education center of the Party Source. It was fun--Amy Tobin's a good teacher, fun to watch and listen to. And at EQ, they serve lots of little tastes, and drinks, during the class. We tried a few wines, some liqueurs, a little sparkling wine. . . So I was in a good mood by the end. I hadn't been to Party Source for a while, so I took a little tour around the food aisles, just to see what they had.

Good idea, bad idea.

They have some really cool stuff at Party Source that I haven't seen other places--good cheese, lots of interesting chocolate, jams, relish kind of things. Crackers with flavorings like fennel that cost $5/box. It all looked so good! It seemed so important that I try them! Fortunately, I hadn't gotten a cart, so I could only buy as much as I could hold. I now have, among other things, some all-butter puff pastry stashed in my freezer, some single-origin chocolate (no, that's gone), some imported Italian pasta called Croxetti --discs imprinted with little pictures. It's gorgeous, and costs several times as much as regular pasta. I also got some Minor's beef stock, which is a step above many other concentrated stocks. And a few other things. . .

So , check it out next time you're having a party--which is when you're in Party Source, anyway. Just be careful about partying before you go.

Press release of the day: You give me fever

I actually had to edit this a bit before posting it so y'all could still read it at work. (I didn't correct any grammar or punctuation, though.) We try to keep the Foodie Report family-friendly, you know. Has anyone actually seen this stuff at any clubs? You can order the six-pack pictured above from www.feverusa.com for a mere $35. Yikes.

Aphrodisiac – In A Bottle
FEVER, First Ever All-Natural Stimulation Beverage Hits Big-City Clubs
(PHILADELPHIA, October 2006) – It’s finally here. The centuries’ long search for an aphrodisiac has gone from myth to reality. Many have mined the bowels of Chinatown in search of ginseng and powder derived from questionable animal organs. Others quietly reach for those silvery packets hanging adjacent to the [deleted] display, behind the counter of the local convenient store. Now there’s a formula, a proven aphrodisiac, and it’s coming to a nightclub near you.
This fall, Fever – the first ever libido stimulant beverage – is launching in major city nightclubs and bars. Fever is an all natural herbal infusion and the beverage will be available in big-city establishments across the country including such hotspots as South Beach’s The Delano hotel bar, Los Angeles’ LAX, Vegas strip mainstays Pure, Light and Rain – and even Manhattan’s burlesque mecca Scores.
“This is a brand new category, a stimulation beverage,” said Reymonn Newton, Director of Marketing for Fever Beverage USA. “Although it’s certainly not intended to take the place of say, a Viagra, there’s definitely a kick. It is, indeed, a proven aphrodisiac. If people want energy, they should buy Red Bull. If they want stimulation…it’s Fever” he adds.
A blended ginger vanilla flavored liquid that comes in a 14 ounce, aluminum canister, Fever
contains a proprietary combination of eight organic herbs proven to enhance [deleted] performance and pleasure, and reduce recovery time between [deleted] intervals.
Fever ingredients include:
· Goat Weed – An all-natural phyto-aphrodisiac, based on scientific research into male performance and well-being
· Clavo Huasca – A large woody vine indigenous to the Amazon rain forest, widely regarded as a libido booster for both men and women
· Panax Ginseng – Used in traditional Chinese medicine to tone the “Chi” – thought to be the vital energy or life energy force
· Green Tea Caffeine – a central nervous system stimulant with significant antioxidant properties
· Catuaba – the most famous of the Brazilian Aphrodisiac plants – enlivens libido, relieves fatigue; considered to be a strong tonic nervous system fortifier
· Damiana Leaf – Aphrodisiac-like plant providing positive effects on the central nervous and hormonal systems; [deleted] energy-enhancing properties of adaptogens
· Suma – Found in the ravines of the upper Amazon rainforest, used for generations for a wide variety of health properties, including as an energy, rejuvenating and [deleted] tonic
· Maca – A root grown in the high altitudes of the Peruvian mountains, rich in nutritional potassium and calcium with Aphrodisiac qualities; a natural hormonal balancer with benefits for both men and women, that enhances libido and increases virility
Fever works as a [deleted] stimulant upon the first usage, and becomes active within half an hour of drinking.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A sure bet on an easy dinner

What's for dinner?

Still a tad burned out from my Thanksgiving cookathon, I have no desire to cook this week. To eat, yes, of course, but not to cook. So my plan was to alternate fast casual restaurants this week, ignoring the growing pile of take-out containers and a barren fridge.

Alas, my love for a good bet got me in trouble Sunday. Who hasn't confused
Chris Hansen with Stone Phillips? You haven't, you say? Oh... Well, I did. So now I have to cook dinner every night for the rest of the week.

Here's what I'm making tonight:

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
4 chicken breast fillets
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Dip the chicken breasts into the egg whites, then toss in the combined Parmesan and pepper to coat. Place in the baking tray and cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is golden and cooked through. Serve with a simple rocket and tomato salad (that's arugula and tomatoes for those of us on this side of the pond).
Serves 4.
Note: You must use good quality Parmesan for a crunchy crust.

Recipe and photo from www.ivillage.com.

Sinful cheesecake

OK, I'm still in Thanksgiving recovery mode, but we're getting through the leftovers. Dessert was very pumpkin-esque, as usual, but I tried something new this year: a chocolate cappucino cheesecake. A former colleague made this 8 years ago, and I LOVED it then. However, I hadn't made it since then.

It was every bit as good as I remember. And judging from all the comments posted at All Recipes, it's a big hit with chocolate lovers.

It's a whole lot of cheesecake (3 blocks of cream cheese), and my shortcut was using the pre-made chocolate cookie crumble crust, which are smaller than springform pans. The bonus? I made one recipe, but had two cheesecakes instead of one!

If you want a basic cheesecake, this is the one on the Philadephia Cream Cheese box. Super simple, and always a crowd-pleaser.

Baby, it's cold outside...

Okay, maybe not yet. But have you seen the weather forecast for this weekend?

I must admit: I love the cold weather. I spent my first 27 years in Florida, and I'm still in the middle of my second 27 years, so I haven't grown tired of the beautiful snow and wearing 10 layers of clothing.

Another thing I LOVE about the cold weather: Cooking. Soups, stews, turkeys, lasagna... oh yeah. So here's a fast, easy and yumalicious for a crockpot bean/sausage stew that is your better-than-average stick-to-the ribs kind of meal. Look for the recipe as the first comment on this post.

I got this recipe from my friend Kerry, who is a busy mother, coach and business owner. She served it over rice, but it stands alone deliciously as well. She made it a couple of times before I finally asked for the recipe. I'm SO GLAD I did!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chalk one up for chocolate

This morning I attended the funeral of my great uncle, Omer Frey, who lived through World War II, and this century, to the ripe old age of 93. He never married, and lived by himself, with no outside assistance, in Monfort Heights, for his entire life.

The last time he was in the hospital, before last Tuesday, when he walked himself into Veterans Medical Center with abdominal pain, was when he was wounded with shrapnel during the war.

In the eulogy, nephew Jim Wilz noted Omer's love of a small square of dark chocolate after every meal. Jim even found some chocolate still in Omer's fridge the day he checked into the hospital.

One more reason to keep that sweet tooth satisfied!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Never go out for Indian food again

I love Trader Joe's as much as anyone, but I've found their convenience foods to be kind of hit-or-miss. However, I've now tried two of their prepackaged Indian dishes, and I still can't get over how good--not to mention easy to make--they were. Tonight I had Jaipur Vegetables (green peas and beans, carrots, Paneer cheese cubes, cashews and spices) over Trader Joe's white basmati rice. This is all you have to do to make the Jaipur Vegetables or any other Trader Joe's Indian Fare dishes: 1. Cut pouch and empty contents into a microwave-safe bowl. 2. Cover and heat on high for 1-2 minutes. 3. Stir and serve. Seriously, this stuff tastes about as good or better than anything at your average Indian restaurant, and for a whole lot less (I can't remember exactly how much I paid, but it couldn't have been more than a couple of bucks). Each 10-ounce package (which you just keep in the pantry, not the freezer) serves about two. I've also tried Trader Joe's Pav Bhaji (with potatoes, tomatoes and veggies in a super spicy sauce) which is also excellent.

I'm especially happy about this find after a disappointing experience at the new, supposedly improved Cumin restaurant in East Hyde Park about a week ago. Cumin used to be one of my favorite Cincinnati restaurants because of its extensive menu, which included plenty of vegetarian dishes, and its simple, modern, cozy interior. But they've now swankified the inside, cut the menu at least in half and raised the prices of seemingly almost everything. I still enjoyed my meal there, but sadly, I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


So I went down to Winterfair craft show at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center today, and I have to admit that I didn't find a whole lot that I liked--until I went up to the second floor. That's where all the food--complete with free samples!--is. I picked up four boxes of Kenny's Gourmet Popcorn, which Nicci raved about in an earlier post, from Kenny himself (after a free sample sold me on it) plus a box of the absolute best hot chocolate I've ever had--Mama Lee's from Nashville, Tennessee. (Again, it's all about the free samples.) I highly recommend the white chocolate--it's divine. It's not cheap--it's $8.50 for a 16-ounce box, which makes about 10 servings, but it's totally worth it. Plus, there are more salsa and fudge sellers than you can shake a stick at. Winterfair happens again from noon-5 p.m. Sunday, and it's $7 for ages 12 and up. Just don't go on a full stomach!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Delicious TV

Getting home a little early the night before Thanksgiving allowed me to watch more TV. And I caught the best food show I've seen yet: Jamie Oliver's Great (Italy) Escape on the Food Network. Yes, I know the Naked Chef has been around for awhile, but I loved this show because it was less about the how-tos of cooking and more about travel. Oliver travels the different regions of Italy in his VW bus and cooks (often tries to cook) like the locals, using local ingredients and of course, no recipes. I tuned in late to the show in which he has to slaughter a lamb, and then goes on a wild boar hunt. (Know what you're thinking, but the chef expresses the common sentiment that if you're going to eat and cook meat, you should know what it feels like to kill the animal.)
In another episode, he made this interesting baked lemon-mozzerella antipasto, but burned it in a wood-fired oven. We actually got to see this chef screw up and get frustrated as he had to throw the food away. Great stuff. (For schedule of upcoming shows: foodnetwork.com.)
This makes Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations Required" on the Travel Network my second favorite food show, I guess. But maybe that's not fair: "No Reservations" is more of a travel show. I just love Tony's attitude.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Almost done!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's 7:00 a.m. and I'm almost done cooking for Thanksgiving! Yay me! Right after work Wednesday, I went to the grocery. To my surprise, the crowd wasn't much worse than it is any other day after the 5:00 p.m. rush. Plus, I was prepared with my ingredient list and the recipes (just in case I missed any of the items). But that shopping excursion sapped what little energy I had after work. So I went to sleep around 8:00 p.m. and woke up at 12:30 a.m. or so.

And off I went...

First, I baked a sweet potato cheesecake, a new recipe for me. It looks AMAZING and I pinched off a little piece... Mmm! My new springform pan worked like a charm. Need one?
Old Time Pottery usually has good prices on baking pans of all shapes and sizes. The recipe I used to make the cheesecake comes from Sweet Auburn Bread Company in Atlanta, Ga, and you can find it here. According to Sweet Auburn Bread Company's menu, I could charge $45 dollars for this! They do. Hmm... That could be a sweet (literally) new gig...

Then I made dressing, also known as stuffing to most Yankees. Technically, I was born north of the
Mason-Dixon line, but my grandparents are from Hunstville, Ala., and my family's southern roots run deep. In our homes, we don't argue about dressing vs. stuffing. We know what it is... Keeping the southern tradition, I made greens, cornbread with jalapenos and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, and rolls. Now, I'm about to put my turkey in the oven!

So, I'm feeling pretty good , albeit sleep-deprived. If you take a break in between noshing and napping and you get online, let us know what you're cooking!

Best dishes!

Have a great Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Would you like some cheese with that?

So I've noticed that Target is selling wine in a box - they call it a Wine Cube - an exclusive Target brand. In fact, Target now even has an entire wine aisle. (Is this new? Where have I been!?)

Walking through Colerain Target last night, I thought seriously about buying the Wine Cube just to try it. But it seems awfully expensive - something like $8.99 for a small (250 ml) cube. I like the concept for portability, but at least you can recycle glass bottles.

But for naysayers, there are some decent brands on the shelf. Both Sterling Vintner's Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 and Merlot 2002 on sale for $12.99, and another standby, Marques de Cachera Rioja for $13.99. Not a bargain, but nice to know it's there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Turkey tribulations

I'm stressing about Thanksgiving this year. I almost feel like I should have taken a couple vacation days this week just to get ready to prepare dinner. I'm this (Look! My thumb and index finger are actually touching right now!) to going out to eat instead. I know for a fact that there are tons of people who would love nothing more than to make our Thanksgiving dinner. OK, so maybe they wouldn't love to do it, but they would be on the clock so they'd have to... But I know that's not an option. I'm cooking...

Do you have any timesavers/nervesavers that help you get through the holidays? Be nice and share them with us lowly last-minuters... Gravy from a packet doesn't count, by the way!

I hadn't realized last time I posted about pie that the New York Times had a long article about the perfect pie crust. The writer's secret: using lard.
I've made lard pie crusts, and they are, indeed, delicious. But my goal is to be able to take pie to various events and be greeted like a goddess. Why start with something that anyone can eat and make it off-limits to vegetarians and observant members of several major religions? I'd hate to have to dive in front of someone as they were about to lift a piece of the pig-fat crust unknowingly to their lips.
The crust I like so much is a ratio of 2:3 vegetable shorteningo butter. I do love an all-butter crust, but I like the way this one handles and tastes with a two-crust fruit pie. I guess I'll go ahead and give the recipe--I was being lazy before:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut up
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Greatly shortened instructions:
Pulse flour sugar salt in processor. Add shortening in bits, pulse 10 seconds, add butter, pulse 10 times. Put in bowl, sprinkle water on top, toss it together, press it with side of spatula until it sticks together. Divide in two, wrap each half in plastic wrap, chill at least an hour. (Much more detailed directions in any America's Test Kitchen book or website)

I'm making two pies for four people on Thanksgiving; foolish but necessary: an apple pie and a sweet-potato pecan. We will be eating them long past Thanksgiving. As much as I love warm apple pie, I will not warm it up after the first time: microwaving pie ruins it--something that restaurants refuse to learn. They heat pie up too hot, then plop a huge scoop of ice cream on it so it melts--apple pie soup.

I guess I'll haul out a cookbook or two: I've made the sweet potato pecan pie for years but don't have it memorized. Otherwise, one of the great pleasures of making Thanksgiving dinner for me is that recipes are not really needed. It's all traditional, simple stuff and it's the same every year. I almost never experiment.

Press release of the day: Thanksgiving disasters

Martha Stewart at her decidedly non-disastrous book signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers Saturday. Photo by Tony Jones/The Enquirer

So I get a lot of press releases that I never do anything with for various reasons (lack of a local angle, lack of time, lack of interest, etc.). They're often really entertaining and provide a fascinating glimpse into the world of PR, so from now on I occasionally will post food-related releases on this blog. To piggyback on the below post, here's my inaugural PROTD:

Dear Lauren,

Today, Martha Stewart stirs up the Thanksgiving crock-pot by asking Yahoo! users "What was your biggest Thanksgiving disaster and how could it have been prevented?" Her question will appear on Yahoo! Answers, the #1 Q&A community on the web, as well as on Yahoo, THE 9 and the new Yahoo! Food.

Stewart joins a list of more than 30 celebrities that include Stephen Hawking, Hillary Clinton, Jay-Z, Al Gore, Bono and Donald Trump who have posted questions around timely topics and globally-pressing issues for the collective knowledge of the Yahoo! Answers community to give their advice and opinions on. These celebrities and prominent figures see Yahoo!’s tremendous world audience as a great way to connect with people about important topics.

Stewart’s question could come just in time - after seeing some responses such as “our raccoon ate the turkey” and “we burned our house down on Thanksgiving” we may all be a little more thankful going into the holiday. Then again, after Thursday, we may have some of our own disasters to share.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to speak with a Yahoo! spokesperson in further detail.

Girls just wanna have fun

I found two (count 'em, TWO) online polls from our various publications asking folks about their Thanksgiving dinner:

NKY.com: What's for dinner? and
Cincinnati.com: What do you dread about Thanksgiving?

We are SO much fun!

Sweet n salty snack

A couple years ago, my cousin's husband (a repo man - cool!) showed up at Thanksgiving with a simple snack that was utterly delicious. He's always amazing us with stuff like that -- I mean, do you expect good food from a repo man?

Recipe Zaar calls them Those Pretzel Things, but it's a simple concept - rollo candies and mini pretzel twists. This recipe calls for pecans, but as I recall, he left those out and they were still darn tasty. AND super easy.

I'm getting excited for Turkey Day!

Monday, November 20, 2006

An eggcellent dinner idea...

What's for dinner?

It's the weirdest thing: I'm not into eggs, and I don't like leftovers. But I adore a good, homemade frittata that combines the two. Sound crazy? Well a message on
another blog made a remark about The Foodie Report being schizophrenic. No fair. That was between us and HIPAA...

The wonderful thing about a frittata is how versatile it can be. Don't know what to do with the rest of that rotisserie chicken you mauled last night? Need to do something with those veggies in that refrigerator bin before they morph into a new life form? Cooking on a budget? Want to splurge and throw in truffles or cook up a version of the
zillion dollar frittata? Need to feed two people? 10? Whatever you need, this dish has you covered. Cook it about 3/4 of the way on the stovetop before you finish it off under the broiler. The result is magnificent and, unlike a quiche, you can't mess it up. Or perhaps I should say it's difficult to mess it up. I know people who could ruin Frosted Flakes...

Serve your frittata with a simple green salad and rip off a hunk of a good
artisan bread and you have quick, satisfying dinner.

Eggs, about two per person (I like
Eggland's Best)
cooked veggies of your choice (tomatoes, spinach, steamed broccoli or asparagus are great)
cooked meat of your choice, if desired (I love to use leftover store-bought rotisserie chicken)
cheese of your choice, if desired (smoked
Gouda is great)
herbs of your choice, fresh or dried (my favorite is the sweet, subtle flavor of dried basil)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Turn on your oven's broiler. Heat olive in a deep, oven-safe pan over medium high heat.
In a large bowl, beat eggs (with a dash of salt and pepper to taste). Stir in all the goodies you want (roasted diced potatoes, steamed broccoli, shredded chicken, prosciutto, dried - not fresh - herbs, etc...). Egg mixture should not be too chunky. Pour mixture into the hot pan. Use a wooden spatula to go around the frittata and lift the edges. Lift pan and til from side to side so the egg mixture is even. Keep doing this until the mixture is set but the center still looks wet. Put the pan in the oven under the broiler until the surface is a gorgeous golden brown. Keep an eye on it thought. The Broiler Fairy loves to burn stuff when you turn your back... or so I've been told. Remove frittata from the oven, and sprinkle it with fresh herbs if you like. Slice it as you would a pizza and serve in lovely wedges.

People will think you put a great deal of effort into it. Don't tell them any different...

Best dishes!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thanksgiving dessert panic

For the past few years, I've hosted Thanksgiving. I've pretty much got it down to a science, except for the desserts. I usually head over to Frisch's and buy an assortment of pies -- pumpkin, apple and a chocolate pie for the husband.
But this year, I was planning to make an ice cream pie using Edy's Slow-Churned Pumpkin ice cream. It's one of their light flavors, and I thought I could throw something together for those of us still watching our calorie intake at the end of the evening.
So I went to Bigg's, and it was GONE! Sure, it says Limited Edition on the carton, but I didn't think it would be sold out so fast. They are on to peppermint and egg nog. Sigh. Let me know if you've seen the pumpkin. I'm heading off to Kroger now...

Color blind

I have always said that my favorite food group is the White Food Group. You know, the one that embraces cream cheese, sour cream and Cool Whip. Oh yeah.

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year, because every good thing that none of us should be eating has cream cheese in it.

So I went to a party, and what did I find? A sweet pumpkin dip recipe that had me singing all night. And of course, I had to get the recipe. My friend said he got it from watching Channel 9 in the morning a couple of weeks ago. I need to start paying attention.

Pumpkin Dip
2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
15 oz. solid pack pumpkin
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Mix sugar and cream cheese, beating until well blended. Beat in remaining ingredients. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you serve it with graham crackers, it tastes just like pumpkin pie. I swear. And if you serve it with ginger snaps, it tastes like a spicy pumpkin pie. Either way, you're a winner.

PINK: Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

Listening to 91.7 FM on the radio this weekend, I heard a snippet for the now-infamous Pepto-Bismol pink cranberry relish, made by NPR reporter Susan Stamberg's mother-in-law, and was reminded that I actually tried this for the first time last year. All told, it's pretty darn tasty. And there's something fun about having something that color on the buffet table. (If you need more visuals, watch it being made by a stuffed monkey).

Part of the beauty of this is making it in advance and plopping it in the freezer. I may go ahead and make it when I go home this afternoon (once the Bengals, hopefully, win against the Saints). I just have to remember to get it out of the already jam-packed freezer.

My two cents if you're eating this relish this year: pack your toothbrush and toothpaste for after dinner. I love the onion and horseradish combo with the sour creamed cranberries, but it is pretty dang potent!

Ginger speaks

If you were a vegetable, what sound would you make?

This was a question we asked in college, and it always turned out that eggplant, and yes, ginger (I guess that's a root veggie), always made the most interesting noises. You know, the way ginger kind of starts off all innocuous, then grows to this crescendo of flavor like a monster coming out of its cave (think growling, starting small, getting big, then GINORMOUS!). Or something like that.

Anyway, if you're looking to start a trend with your Thanksgiving salad this year, toss it with a tasty sesame ginger dressing. My favorite store-bought brand, discovered earlier this year, is BRIANNA'S Ginger Mandarin salad dressing. Ever since I've been eating my salads with that, my other traditional favorites, BRIANNA'S Poppy Seed and Blush Wine Vinaigrette, have fallen by the wayside.

For a while there, I was on a kick of making my own, which I modified (without measurements, which is my MO). But this spicy ginger sesame dressing looks like a pretty good facsimile. It's easy to make, and just substitute out things you might not like (such as the hot chili oil). Or just add red pepper flakes. The sesame oil is part of the secret to the good flavor, and a tip on the ginger: peel the small section that you want to use with a potato peeler, then grate it with a fine grater (what you'd use for Parmesan cheese). Once I discovered that tip, I started cooking with a lot more ginger in my stir fries...

If you find you like the BRIANNA'S Ginger Mandarin, check out the first comment below for an Asian cole slaw recipe that could be interesting.

What sound do your veggies make?

Kenny's a Kentucky hottie...

If you've been visiting The Foodie Report frequently (And you have, right? Don't make me come over there and "favorite" this blog on your computer...), you might have noticed that the recipes I recommend tend to have two things in common: 1. they're quick; 2. they're spicy. I'm the person who says "10" when servers at Thai and Indian restaurants ask what spice level I want. Tissues in tow, I'm ready for the fire! But it can be hard to find foods that pack the heat AND the flavor I crave. Too much heat without flavor just leaves you with a numb tongue.

I tried Kenny's Cajun Gourmet Popcorn last night and it's delicious! It's not "get-a-living-will-first" hot, but it's just right for snacking. I'd say it's half-a-tissue hot... (It's also microwaveable, so all you "real popcorn" snobs can leave now and go get tips from Polly. Just go, you popcorn elitist you!)

Kenny, a former Chicagoan who apparently is in the one-name realm with the likes of
Madonna and Elmo, concocted this crunchy treat after moving to Fisherville, Ky., in 1998. According to the Web site, Kenny's kernels are born, raised and packaged in the Ohio River Valley, which means each box is full of homegrown goodness.

I like the fact that the spices are already in the bag so there's no sprinkling involved. Just heat and enjoy. And be sure to peep out the
recipes on the site, too. Sure, chocolate/cajun popcorn sounds weird, but any foodie worth their weight in Fleur de Sel knows "weird" usually translates into "Oh, this is addictive!" delicious.

It's so good that it's even gone international. Aren't you glad to know you can find at least one snack with which you're familiar next time you're in
Amsterdam or Guam?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ebony and Ivory

I can't wait to try Lauren's Festive Black Bean Chili recipe. It looks easy and sounds delish. But just to balance things out a bit, I figured I'd share a relatively new recipe that we're diggin' big time.

White Bean Chili
48 oz. jar great northern beans (you know, that giant jar located next to all the canned beans)
16 oz. hot salsa (
I use mild when kids are involved)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 cup water
16 oz. cooked and diced chicken
8 oz. white (
sensing a trend?) monterey jack cheese, grated

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Cook over low-medium heat until the chili is heated through and the cheese is melted.

Yep, that's it. Pretty simple, huh? Well, that's the way, uh huh, uh huh, we like it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Spicy shrimp in a flash

What's for dinner?

When I go to the bank without any makeup on, I pinch my cheeks (a la Scarlett O'Hara) right before I go inside for a hint of color. I've convinced myself that the result makes look more like a lady and less like I'm about to stick up the joint. If I get a run in my nylons, I use clear nail polish to stop it from creeping up my leg. When I lose the back to an earring, I cut off a piece of a pencil eraser and use that to hold my earring in place until I can get home.

My point? We all have those moments when we're in a (get ready for the full-circle moment) pinch. Here's a great dinner idea for times like that. The secret ingredient? Campbell's Cream of Shrimp Soup. Never heard of it? Neither had I until about two months ago when I saw it at Super Walmart. Yeah, I know it hasn't been cool to cook with condensed soups since the 1950s, but darn it... They're convenient! What else can I say? Hate it or eat it...

Spicy Shrimp with Rice
1 can of Campbell's Cream of Shrimp Soup
1 lb shrimp, deveined and shelled
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup sliced green onions (kitchen shears work well with these), with another 1/4 cup for garnish
1/2 cup white wine (something you would like to drink; cooking swill only makes it more wretched)
3 tablespoons of butter
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
Hot cooked rice

In a large lidded skillet, heat butter over medium high heat. Saute celery and green onions until soft. Add shrimp and cook until they are pink. Add cayenne pepper, soup, wine and heat through. Do not overcook or shrimp will be bubblegummy (yes, that IS a word). Squeeze lemon juice over it right before serving.

Serve over rice and garnish with a little extra green onion on top.


Time for pie

OK, if you're one of those people who think it's acceptable to show up to Thanksgiving dinner with a pumpkin pie from Kroger, KNOCK IT OFF! Not only will you NOT impress anyone that way - well, heck, it just doesn't taste good.

The good thing is, it's easy as pie (sorry, couldn't resist) to mix up your own. We've always made
LIBBY'S Famous Pumpkin Pie in my family, and I've never tasted a better one. In fact, I just polished off the last bite of the one my mom made this week, since we didn't feel like waiting till Thanksgiving to splurge. I mean, what's easier than pumpkin in a can? (And yes, I count that as cooking from scratch).

Frightened by the crust? (I'm no Polly Campbell.) Find some in your baking aisle. I use the "just add water" stuff, but Pillsbury also makes a refrigerated pie crust, which I've never tried.

Want more of a baking challenge? Find more options at the
Libby's site. I'm a fan of the pumpkin roll as well. Just add cream cheese. Yum!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curry, madame?

So I decided to try this scrumptious-looking recipe for Pumpkin Curry Soup. It looked easy to do, plus I LOVE curry-flavored anything. And boy, I certainly underestimated how wonderful this soup was going to be.

It's super-duper easy, makes your house smell like heaven and who doesn't like pumpkin anything in November?

I got the recipe from a friend, but he originally got it from Libby's. You know, the canned veggie people. They must make a killing this time of year.

This soup was phenominal with a couple of slices of Servatti's sourdough bread, with just a little Soy Garden spread on it. A salad beforehand would be lovely too.

And oh yeah, I'm definitely making a couple of pumpkin rolls this weekend. Libby's rocks.

It's Tofurky time!

For the past several years, I've had my own Thanksgiving tradition: making a Tofurky. Lots of people laugh or ask if there really is such a thing when I tell them this, but Tofurky is the realest fake meat you'll ever find: An Oregon company called Turtle Island Foods has been making the stuff since 1995. Today, you can buy a Tofurky Feast (which includes a Tofurky Roast, cranberry apple potato dumplings, Tofurky "Giblet" and Mushroom Gravy, herbed brown and Tofurky Wild Rice Stuffing, and a vegetarian wishbone called a Wishstix that's made out of Tofurky Jurky) or just the Tofurky Roast, which is what I usually get. You can also buy the gravy, stuffing, potato dumplings and other Tofurky products on their own (Wild Oats carries most of the line, and right now Tofurky Roasts, which serve four, are on sale for $8-something).

OK, so I know what you're going to ask: How does it taste? To be perfectly honest, I don't know if it's going to win over meat-eaters anytime soon. It really doesn't taste like turkey, and you sort of have to be used to the taste of soy products to enjoy it (although the stuffing inside is delicious regardless). But I've developed a taste for it, especially when it's cooked as directed (with potatoes, carrots and onions, basted with a mixture of soy sauce, orange juice and herbs, and smothered in Tofurky gravy). Plus, half the fun of having Tofurky for Thanksgiving is just being able to say that you had Tofurky.

Want to win a free Tofurky Feast? Go here (but note that to enter, you have to send an e-mail to family and friends to explain why you won't be eating turkey this year, which could make things a little strained if you'll be sharing Thanksgiving with meat-eating relatives).

"Pop" to it

Now, I normally don't sign up to have random e-mails sent to my already-jammed Inbox. But Daily Candy is the exception to the rule. It finds all the shopping gems out there and delivers them, pre-screened, via e-mail or cell phone. Today, Daily Candy Kids was all about popcorn ON THE COB. Pop the whole thing, in the bag provided, in the microwave. Pretty cool stuff. Anyone ever try this? (I would, but I'm not such a popcorn fan.)

Turkey Day hotlines

I took the bus to work today so my wife can pick me up tonight after work on the way to the Third Day concert at Cintas Center. (Not too late to get tickets.) Anyway, riding the bus allows me to read Newsweek. That allows me to come across some handy hotline numbers for busy cooks growing nervous as Thanksgiving approaches. Relax. You don’t have to do it on your own. Keep these numbers handy as the big day approaches:

-Butterball Hotline (Nov. 1-Dec. 31; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 800-BUTTERBALL): Everything you want to know about turkey roasting.
-Crisco Pie Hotline (Through Dec. 31; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 877-367-7438): Pie baking tips.
-Ocean Spray (year-round; 9 a.m.-4 p.m.): 800-662-3263. Cranberry sauce tips.
-USDA Hotline (year-round; 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; 888-674-6854): Questions about poultry and meat safety, etc.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Everyone likes pie, am I right? And since one of the main reasons for being a good cook is to get people to like you, I decided recently that I would become known for my pies. (I guess I was feeling unpopular) People would invite me to things, hoping I would bring one of my famous pies. Polly's here? Where's her pie? they'd say. Oh, Polly--you know, the one who makes that fabulous apple pie.

And I do mean apple pie; or peach or blueberry or rhubarb or plum. Fruit pies, not butterscotch or chocolate. (that's kind of cheating if the idea is to win friends.) Pie with a real homemade crust, tall pies with fruit bathed in exactly the right amount of thickened filling; no caramel, no streusel, not heavy on the cinnamon: just fruit and crust.

I've made three or four since I decided to become a piemeister, and basically, I'm there. I make great pie.

I thought it would be this long quest to find the right recipes and techniques. But the thing is, for stuff like apple pie, Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) has already done all that trying and testing. I don't need to duplicate it. I got the recipe out of The New Best Recipe, their big cookbook--you can get it from their website, too, but you have to pay. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/ Their piecrust is fabulous: it uses a lot of butter and--this is genius-- a lot of water, so it's easy to roll out. The main problem with pie crust is that it crumbles and you have to patch it. This doesn't But it's crisp and delicious, and way way way better than store-bought. They have good ideas about apples. All I have to do is find a place on my counter clean enough to roll out the pie and make sure there's time to bake it.

That's it--that's the secret. You have to spend some money, but cook's illustrated is basically my secret for all kinds of things--anything standard or American especially. I get the magazine as well as buy the books.

Fishing for a dinner idea? Here you go...

What's for Dinner?

When I grow up, I'm going to have an assistant to do my shopping (I promise not to throw my cell phone at her), and a chef to do my cooking. But on the days when I give my chef the day off, I'll traipse into my massive kitchen full of professional-grade appliances, and sigh dramatically right before I scream, "Where in the world did my assistant put the tilapia?!"

Enraged, I'll call my assistant and fire her. Five minutes later, I'll find the tilapia in my fridge ("Why would she put it in there?! It's so hard to find good help..."). Then I'll call her back to re-hire her while I (begrudgingly) make this myself:

Spicy Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce
1 1/2 pounds of tilapia filets
2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil (I tend to use this or a nonstick spray often because I don't care for non-stick pans)

For the sauce
1/2 cup melted butter
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons hot sauce

Pour lemon juice all over the filets. Season filets generously on both sides with red and black peppers, garlic powder and salt. Heat oil over medium to medium-high heat. Gently place filets in hot pan, being careful not to move them around too much. Combine ingredients for sauce in a small saucepan, heat through. Cook fish for 3-5 minutes or so on each side. Fish should be opaque and flaking a bit when it's ready. I like mine to have a nice golden color and sort of crunchy texture on the ends. Plate and spoon lemon butter sauce over it. Garnish with lemon slices.

Best dishes,


Time for good takeout

I'm totally obsessed with The Cheesecake Factory. We don't go to the Kenwood location as much as I'd like to, mostly because as much as I love the place, I don't love waiting more than an hour for a table. One way around that is to get takeout -- they do an awesome job and pack everything really well (the hot stays hot, cold stays cold, McDLT style!). And if you get a salad, it'll feed you for 3 days.
My other trick is to buy whole cheesecakes for special occasions. They are crowd-pleasers for sure, if you don't mind spending some cash (a 10-inch cake is about $40). A warning: buy cakes ahead because they are generally sold frozen and need to thaw.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My seed-y habit...

What's for dinner?

Whether it's advertising or changing seasons, I tend to be a highly-suggestible eater. On winter days, I relish root vegetables, roasted with a good olive oil and simply seasoned with salt and cracked pepper. In the spring, soups chock full of leeks and other delicious greens catch my fancy. Come summer, I crave the crunch of jicama and the fresh flavor of fruit salads tossed with minty citrus dressings.

In the fall, I get a hankering for some, shall we say, less-normal, but equally seasonal, goodies. My odd cravings include mellowcreme pumpkins and roasted pumkin seeds. With Halloween gone, I'm over the former, but the latter has a firm grip on me. I've been popping pumpkin seeds for the last week now.

Not into my seed-y scene? That's OK. Try this recipe using the meat of the pumpkin instead: Penne with Pumpkin Sauce. I plan to make it tonight, although I'll probably omit the red pepper (I know my palate, and I don't think that's a good combo for me) and kick up the seasoning a bit.

It's reminiscent of the phenomenal pumpkin ravioli with brown butter-sage sauce I had at my wedding reception in 2005 at Sammy's in the Flats in Cleveland. It was so good that family and friends are still talking about it! I doubt it will be as luxurious as what we had that February night, but it might come close enough to bring back some good memories.

Best dishes...

Did you vote today?

Take it easy. I know the elections are over, silly. I'm not talking about that. This is The Foodie Report, remember? We encourage frivolity and excess around here. Nothing at all like politics...

But whether you're registered with the Board of Elections or not, you can vote for something else that's important: Donations to the FreestoreFoodBank.

Click For Cans has returned and Campbell's will donate cans of soup to the foodbank associated with the NFL team that gets the most votes. The Cincinnati Bengals are currently ranked no. 1 among the five teams with the most improved number of clicks from last year. The team with the most improved number of clicks also wins a donation on its behalf. You can go to www.chunky.com and vote every day from now until midnight on Dec. 15.

What are you waiting for? Get clicking and help the FreestoreFoodBank - and the Bengals, for that matter - win something!

My favorite chili ever, and it's definitely not served over spaghetti

On chilly, gray days like today, a heaping bowl of hearty chili is the perfect thing to warm you up. For years now, I've been making Festive Black Bean Chili from a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. The Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York, where I went to college and held my first newspaper job. The Moosewood sort of had a reputation for vegetarian comfort food--heavy on the oil, eggs and dairy--so this cookbook was a welcome change. Anyway, this recipe is super-easy and flavorful, and even meat-eaters I know who have tried it have sung its praises. It's delicious topped with cheddar or pepper jack cheese, served with tortilla chips or cornbread, or as a burrito filling. I suppose you could add meat or soy crumbles or something if you wanted, but it's seriously great on its own.


Festive Black Bean Chili

2 cups onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. ground coriander
1 cup bottled red salsa (I use Green Mountain Gringo medium salsa or Drew's All Natural salsa)
2 red and/or green peppers, chopped (orange and yellow peppers are also good)
2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (I recommend Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Mild Green Chilies)
11 oz. package frozen corn
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped, or to taste
Salt and hot sauce to taste

In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the water on high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander, and stir for a minute. Stir in the salsa and bell peppers, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the black beans and tomatoes; simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Add salt and hot sauce to taste. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Easy, different soup

That green, ferny, bulbous thing in the produce section is called fennel, despite the fact that it is sometimes mislabelled as "anise." That name alone could be a turnoff for some, but the flavor of this vegetable is actually a mild anise or licorice flavor, very fresh tasting and sweet. The Italians use it in a variety of ways, raw or grilled in salads, sometimes braised.
Here's an easy soup I made from the River Cafe Cookbook, one of my favorites. It's so easy, I'm just giving basic directions.
Bring 1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock or broth to simmer in large pot. Cut off ferny fronds from four fennel bulbs (you could use less if you like) reserving fronds for later use. Trim base from each bulb and discard. Peel away outer layer of fennel and discard. Wash and slice thinly, then cut into bite size pieces. Place sliced fennel in stock and simmer about 20 minutes, just until tender. Meanwhile, wash reserved fronds and chop. Add to soup when fennel is tender. Add salt and white pepper to taste.
The recipe then calls for garnishing each bowl of soup with a small piece of toasted bread and slice of dry ricotta cheese. But you could also just garnish with a sprinkle of grated Parm and drizzle of good olive oil.
The soup is light, but flavorful. Unusual, but easy. Try it.

"Make yourself a dang quesadilla"

What's for dinner?

OK, this isn't really a quesadilla recipe, but I do love that line in "Napoleon Dynamite." I know, I know... That movie is SO 2004.

I do, however, have a yummy fajita recipe for you:

Quick and Easy Fajitas
1 pound of chicken or steak, sliced into strips (I find this is a breeze when I use my kitchen shears; and I've made this with extra firm tofu - just be sure to marinate it overnight and press out a good amount of the extra liquid before cooking so it gets a nice "sear" on it for texture)
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion, sliced lenthwise
Half a bottle of Emeril's Lemon, Rosemary & Gaahlic Marinade (I get mine at Kroger)
Juice of one lime (I prefer that for steak) or 1/2 lemon
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
(ideally, you should slice the meat and the veggies so they're all the same size to ensure even cooking and a pretty presentation)

Place sliced meat in a glass bowl (metal can react with anything citrus-y, plastic can be porous and difficult to sanitize), and pour marinade over it. Mix well. (This is really good when you have time to leave it in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight.) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add meat, stirring to cook it evenly. When meat starts to look done, add veggies, salt and ground pepper. Cook for an additional 5-8 minutes. Onions should be turning translucent, peppers should still be bright and al dente. Squeeze 1/2 lemon or lime over mixture right before serving.

It's neat to make a buffet out of it. Place tortilla wraps, bowls of sliced tomatoes, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, sliced black olives, salsa, etc... in a row and let your family or your guests build their own fajitas.

Best dishes,


"Customer needs help..." Serious help...

I trekked to Trader Joe's last night. Full of anticipation, I floated into the store, ignoring the fresh gnocchi, the croissants and the brie. Per the advice of a blog reader, I was there on a mission: Operation Honey Crisp.

Still floating, I walked up, down and around the produce section.
Gala. Golden Delicious. Ambrosia. "Where are the Honey Crisp?!" I silently screamed. I homed in on a young woman stocking the cereal shelves. "Pardon me. Can you tell me if you (gulp) have any Honey Crisp apples?" Bubbly and aiming to please, she went to the back to check. My heart sank when she walked back through those doors with empty hands. "The lady back there said we're out... But she said the Ambrosias are just as good!" Now I have a bag full of non-Honey Crisps sitting on my kitchen counter, and I'm sad to report that they're not even half as good, let alone "just as good."

On my way home, I realized that, stunned by the disappointment, I had forgotten some of the other stuff I wanted to buy at Trader Joe's. So I stopped at the Super Walmart near Cincinnati Mills. While there, I decided to check to see if they had the apples for which my palate yearned.

And there it was. The sign I had been waiting to see: "Honey Crisp"!

A slight smile spread across my face as I let out an audible sigh of relief, grabbed a bag and started to search for the good ones. But, to my dismay, I soon realized it was a cruel joke. I didn't see any of my beloved pommes. Desperate, I asked the Walmart greeter to page someone to help me. No one ever showed up. So there I stood with the greeter, a sweet little old man, sorting through Galas and
Pink Ladies for about 15 minutes. We found one Honey Crisp in the bunch, and it was rotten.

So which one of you foodies is hoarding 'em?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Galerie's bargain candies

OK, so my parents are inveterate bargain shoppers. After a trip to the Gap Outlet in Hebron this weekend, where they found some fun sweaters for my 18-month-old niece, they zipped over to the Galerie Clearance Center at a friend's suggestion. Galerie is chockful of bargain candy and Barbie-branded stuff galore; I'm going to have to check it out myself before the holidays. (Think stocking stuffers!) My folks came home with this 15-ounce bag of Choxie truffles (dark, milk chocolates) in festive holiday red and green wrappers -- for just $1.25. Score! (Check out Choxie at Target -it ain't normally this cheap). AND they're tasty - even the milk chocolate ones!

Here's the 411 -
Galerie Clearance Center, 3380 Langley Drive, Hebron, Ky. 41048
10am-6pm Monday-Friday; 10am-5pm Saturday
I-275 West - 2nd Hebron Exit 8B - Go right (south) on Ky. 237/North Bend Road. Approx. 1.5 miles down, turn right into Galerie.

Hey... What's your sign?

I've always had a thing for horoscopes. I mean, it's not like I've personalized my Google homepage so my horoscope pops up each day. And I certainly don't know my Chinese horoscope or anything... I mean, come on! That would be... like... crazy... right?

OK, I admit to checking my horoscope on most days. And I'm a
snake, a fire snake, to be exact, according to Chinese astrology.

But today, I came across this
diet/astrology Web site. I'm not too happy with what it had to say about my sign (Capricorn) because, frankly, some of it is true. But I thought it was an interesting little tidbit of information. Food for thought... Something to chew on... I'm stopping myself now.

All right, I'm off to Trader Joe's for flowers, some
Honey Crisp apples, and to check out the new stuff they have in stock. See ya'll!

Disclaimer: Love them as I may, horoscopes are only meant for entertainment. Don't bet your life savings on red 27 just because yours says that today is a good money day. Don't call the ex you've been pining over for the last two years just because it says today is a lucky love day. Enjoy the 'scopes, but do take it with a grain of Kosher salt...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not your mama's meatloaf

Don't you hate it when you get home from work and you're exhausted, hungry and without a plan for dinner? Desperate, you open the fridge and peer into it. In fact, you stand there for so long that the Mom Fairy on your right shoulder says, "Close the refrigerator! You're going to make the electric bill sky high..." Seeing nothing but spicy mustard, olives, an opened bottle of wine and a box of Chinese takeout that you're afraid to open because of the horror you're sure lives within it, you turn to the pantry. Hmm... Nothing but panko and Eukanuba Small Breed Senior in there.

Before you grab the phone to order more Chinese, try my meatloaf.

I'm going to do everything I can to actually make this tonight, even though it will require a quick stop by the grocery on my way home. Like you, I'm busy and tired, but I promise you this is a quick and easy alternative to takeout. Especially when you serve it with
Bob Evans mashed potatoes (which are way tastier and far more virtuous than instant mashed potatoes, in my opinion) and steamed (fresh) green beans.

Not Your Mama's Meatloaf
1 pound of ground turkey (or whatever combination of meat you like)
1/2 roll of
Bob Evans' Zesty Hot Sausage
1 egg, beaten
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
And now, the piece de resistance (I guess I'm on a French kick today): 1 1/4 cup of
Famous Dave's Devil's Spit BBQ sauce , with a little extra for topping (I've only been able to find this brand at Kroger.)

Preheat oven to 35o degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork. I use an ice cream scoop to put mine in a Pam-ed muffin tin for cute, miniature loaves. (It's also a great way to encourage portion control, but I doubt you'll think about that once you taste them.) Spoon a little extra bbq sauce on top of the meatloaf(loaves). Bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is done.

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A sack o'... recipes?

I just got a message from Mark in Business about the annual resurgence of the White Castle stuffing recipe. It's weird because I know about it, but every year it surprises me when someone talks about it again. Who in the world would think to stuff a turkey with a bunch of odd-looking, mystery meat-ish burgers (hold the pickles, they say)? A dedicated - and arguably kooky - foodie, that's who! I've never had it and I don't plan to, but it takes a special kinda food lover to be that creative.

Well, who knew the 14-year-old stuffing phenomenon would grow into a
cookbook? In it, you'll find Slyder-rich treats like Breakfast Surprise (one guess what the surprise is) and Stubby's 3-Cheese Spinach Quiche.

A Slyder quiche... My first thought is it's a bit of an oxymoron. And I never would have thought to reach for a Slyder to add to my omelet. But now that I think about it, those 4:00 a.m. post-party Slyders of yesteryear were breakfast, weren't they?

Do you have any "
true Castle stories"? Do you get creative with your Slyders?


Ice Cream riches

My daughter's away at college and I really miss her. The other day I did what any Cincinnati mother would do to give her a hug, long-distance: I sent her a box of Graeter's. Now, she was sure that she needed to go to college somewhere much cooler than her home town, and she hasn't looked back. But when I called and told her that she needed to be sure to check her mail the next day, she got so excited that I thought that maybe she actually was capable of getting homesick.
Then disaster struck. I put the wrong zip code on my order through Graeter's.com. The ice cream got sidetracked. It melted! She was devastated!
But all turned out well. The point of this post is to say how great the Graeter's shipping service is. They'd tracked it all, knew the first shipment had melted, and sent another box to replace it. Happy Days. My daughter shared the melted, re-frozen stuff with her friends, and kept the good mint and double chocolate chip for herself and a few Cincinnati friends.

I have also been appreciating Cincinnati's other home grown ice cream lately. My husband, other daughter and I were coming back home from some outing that needed to be topped off with ice cream. We passed by no Graeter's, but in the course of a mile or so, we went by three UDFs. (We were driving through Norwood, which may have more UDFs than other neighborhoods?) All of which have full-service ice cream counters that serve good ice cream, and wonderful gooey turtle sundaes, hand-made chocolate malts and root beer floats. Which is what we got. I wonder if other cities have such a ubiquity of places to immediately satisfy a craving for real, hand-dipped, individually served ice cream creations?

How you like 'dem apples?

Red Delicious? Passe (French for outmoded) and mush-ay (French-esque for mushy). McIntosh? Yawn. Granny Smith? Yummy (especially with a bit of peanut butter), I know, but ubiquitous.

Enter the Honey Crisp apple.

I’m almost afraid to bring them up, considering this delicious variety of pommes are difficult to find as it is. Thought to be the love child of the Macoun and Honey Gold varieties, the Honey Crisp is fabulous. From the first bite I took last fall, that perfect balance of sweet and crisp seduced my taste buds. I haven’t been able to really enjoy any other apple since.

If you see them (let alone see them on sale), click reply and tell me where. Send up a flare. Shoot an e-mail my way. Call me. Heck, stop by The Enquirer building and tell the security guard at the front desk that you have an important message for me.

Whatever you do, save one for me...


A Starbucks secret

This morning, I had to pick up something from Kroger and decided to stop at Starbucks while I was there. To both my delight and dismay, I noticed that they're in full-on holiday mode, complete with festive red menu board, red cups and a Christmas tree drawn on the chalkboard listing the coffees of the day. I say dismay because I have a major weakness for Starbucks' peppermint mochas, and I couldn't resist getting my first one of the season today. As one barista filled my order, the other one asked me, "Have you been waiting a long time for the peppermint mochas to come back?"

"Yeah," I admitted, "they're kind of my downfall around the holidays."

"The funny thing is," she said, very nicely, "you can get them year-round. As long as as we have the syrup, we can make pretty much anything."

Oh, I thought to myself, immediately feeling like an idiot. Why hadn't this occurred to me before? I just laughed, made some lame comment about how I would just pretend that peppermint mochas weren't available the rest of the year, handed over my $3.40 and got the heck out of there. Honestly, I kind of feel like someone just told me that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is actually on TV every single day of the year. What do I have to look forward to now? Stupid Starbucks.

By the way, the Starbucks Gossip blog probably could have told me about that little secret and more, had I been checking it regularly. But I did just learn that today is the official launch date for Starbucks' holiday marketing blitz, according to this Chicago Sun-Times article. At least they waited until after Halloween.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chipping in

We eat a lot of potato chips around here. So many, in fact, that the boss started up a chip club at the office. The rules of the club are simple -- no trans fats. And no bad chips. One of the favorite chip brands is Michael Season's, which has a great line of reduced-fat chips (they are in the healthier food section at Kroger). Now I can't complain about the boss, because he has the best intentions. But he accidentally grabbed the unsalted chips, and they have bombed. So stick with my personal fave, yogurt and green onion.


What was I thinking, promising I would blog a veggie burger recipe on the day Britney files for divorce, um, I mean, Election Day?

Anywho, I mashed those beans, sauted those veggies, lumped it all together into patties and cooked them in an electric skillet.

DEElicious! The best veggie burger I've EVER had, I swear. Now, I've tried the oatmeal-based patties, and I never got them quite right. I kept thinking: "I know they're not supposed to taste like beef, but these don't taste like anything!"

I got the recipe from my BFF of 15 years, and she has never steered me wrong. She got the recipe from (hold your pants on 'cause they're about to fall off) Weight Watchers. No lie.

So far, they've kept well in the fridge, stayed in pattie shape without falling apart and they taste good cold or hot. Amazing but true! I throw 'em on a bun with tomato. And I made a bigger batch, too, because four patties won't do it for our family. A little more time-consuming, but SO worth it.

Recipe follows in the comment section. Lemme know how you like them, and if you have any other veggie recipes that are to die for (I promise to share them with Lauren)!

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