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Ballast For The Bar

cookbook_junkie[1]Here’s another cute, little book that has more information than you can imagine between its two blue covers.  “drink´lollgy: EATS – A GUIDE TO BAR FOOD AND COCKTAIL PARTY FARE,”  is a clever book written by James Waller and Ramona Ponce with illustrations by Glenn Wolff.  Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in 2006, it contains everything you need to know from Bar Food Basics straight through to Hangovers & Leftovers on its 384 pages.

Beginning with the sound advice “if you’re going to drink, shouldn’t you have something to eat, too?,” Waller & Ponce share some great ideas for snacks that will accompany your libations in grand style.  Promising that your buddies will be in awe of you, they have some mighty good sounding ideas to convert the standard “nut” to something that willl make you reaching for more.  I’ve had sugared pecans before, but I’m pretty sure their recipe for Sweet Glazed Pecans, that not only have the standard sugary mix, but also some five-spice powder, cumin, pepper AND cayenne, will have you asking the bar keep for another frosty mug of draft beer.

In the good old days, my dad’s tavern boasted the usual bar-food of the day: pickled pigs feet, pickled sausages, pickled eggs, Slim Jims, beer nuts and peanuts – the spicier and saltier the better, and all designed to give you a powerful thirst.  These days you’ll be hard-pressed to find the old-fashioned bar food I grew up with.  Now if you get hungry or are looking for some ballast, you’ll be handed a menu that lists heavy appetizers.  Oh, please, bring back the days of light, bar snacks!

This book, however, will provide you with a way to create your own bar-food to serve at your private bar at home.  Hard-boiled eggs can either be pickled at home, or you can use some of their ideas to create your own salt mixes on the eggs.  It just so happens that today is National Potato Chip day and celebrates the invention of that glorious snack food by George Crum in Saratoga Springs, NY, back in 1853.  Waller & Ponce have shared with you how to make your own custom chips and lots of them!  After all, who can eat just one?

If you’re one of those folks who would prefer a bit heavier snack with your beverages, you’ll be able to knock out some Chicken Cocktail Kebobs, Pork Saté, a bazillion varieties of wings, tapenades, light seafood salads, fondues and so much more!  There is even a recipe for Aunt Babe’s Cake with a Chocolate Butter Cream Glaze that Waller’s aunt preferred to wash down with a glass of cold beer.  I kind of like chocolate chip cookies and beer.  I know.  I’m weird!

Bar-food aside, this book has recipes for a boat load of martinis, blender drinks, highballs, mixed drinks, as well as addressing a fine list of specialty beers.  And, as I mentioned at the beginning of today’s blog, the authors have been kind enough to offer some after-the-party suggestions in the chapter “Hangovers and Leftovers.”  Leading the parade is James’ special technique of scrambling eggs, followed by what to do if you have served ham or turkey and have leftovers.

Let me leave you with the recipe for the traditional bar-food, Pink Pickled Eggs.  Some people will undoubtedly complain that “Eggs aren’t supposed to be that color!” but what do they know?  Drain 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans of sliced beets and pour the reserved “beet juice” into a large saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer, add 1 cup of cider vinegar and 1 cup of dark brown sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Now place 1 dozen peeled, hard-boiled eggs, the beets, and 1 medium red onion, sliced into rings, into a large, wide-mouthed, heat-proof glass jar, layering them to ensure even distribution.  Pour in the hot vinegar mixture, adding water, if necessary to make sure all the ingredients are covered.  My suggestion: If you like spicey food, you might add a few dried red chile’s, garlic or fresh jalapeños to the vinegar/juice/sugar mix.

Let the mixture cool, cover the jar, and refrigerate for at least 2 days before serving – the longer they remain in the liquid, the darker – and better – they get. (Will store for around 2 weeks)  Then, belly up to the bar, pour a cold one and dig in!

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Foodie Events: Decorating Your Way Through Summer…Cookies That Is

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July 10th (6:30-8pm) – Summer Fun Cookie Decorating Workshop will be held at The Potpourri House, 3320 Troup Hwy., Tyler. You will receive 1/2 dozen cookies to decorate as well as instructions on how to decorate themed cookies using a special blend of Royal-Glaze icing. These will be a mix of Vanilla-Brown Sugar and White-Almond cookies that you can take home to enjoy. Each person will receive cookies and access to multiple colors of icing bags and tools to work with. All tools and supplies will be provided. Also, a 10″ sturdy plate will be provided for carry home (you may bring your own container).

Other classes will be July 24th (6:30pm), Tropical Fish Cookie Decorating Class will be held at Kiepersol Salt Kitchen, 4120 FM 344E in Bullard. RSVP at goodjujucookies.com/workshops.

July 20th and September 21st (5:30-6:30pm) – XTC Barbells, Bites & Beer – Start your weekend with a Friday evening XTC Workout, followed by some appetizers, bites, and beers on the patio! Members are $20 a session and non-members are $25 a session. For more info or to register please contact Tony Cruz at (903)561-3014 or email xtcruz@gmail.com. This will be held at Tyler Athletic and Swim Club, 11208 Oak Creek Blvd., Tyler.

July 25th (7-9pm),  Vitner’s Dinner: Taste of Alaska – This dinner is full of classic Alaska flavors and paired with our exclusive and adventurous wines. This will be held at Kiepersol, 21508 Merlot Ln., Bullard. RSVP by calling (903)894-3300, or visit kiepersol.com.

Other Vintner’s Dinners will be September 26th, South of the Border; and November 28th, Fall Harvest.

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The Cookbook Junkie

This Is To Die For!

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By Gini Rainey

When my mother passed away on July 4th, 1977, I hadn’t been exposed to very many funerals here in the South, and I really don’t remember that I had attended that many before we moved to Texas, so I wasn’t sure what type of etiquette was called for.  I do know that we were inundated with food the day that she died, the bulk of which was bowl after bowl after bowl of butter beans.  If I’m not mistaken, we were presented with at least five bowls worth – big bowls – maybe you could even say very large bowls.  I know it was partly the lack of sleep and the grief process, but my sister and I started taking bets on what type of food was being delivered when the doorbell rang.  Of course, as the day progressed we knew for sure the next dish of funeral food would be butter beans and most of the time we were correct. To make matters worse, we all left the next day to fly to Minnesota for mom’s burial, leaving a refrigerator literally packed full of butter beans.  When we returned 5 days later, you can rest assured that our disposal got quite a workout.

So today I would like to share with you THE definitive book about funerals.  I wish I had read this book prior to 1977!  Apparently butter beans, along with tomato aspic, are two of the primary foods necessary for a Delta funeral.  After reading this book, I’m pretty sure some of us have been doing it all wrong, and “Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral,” written by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, can help us overcome that hurdle so we can all become the perfect food-providers when the time comes.  Printed by Miramax Books in 2005, this book is just one of the many guides that Metcalfe and Hays have written to help everyone (or at least those who really care) put on their best Delta (Mississippi) Etiquette to safely (and correctly) be part of just about any social situation imaginable from weddings and baby showers, all the way to funerals.

Although most of their wisdom is gleaned from their tri-state region of LA-ARK-Miss, I would imagine you could manage anywhere if you use their book for your own funeral food etiquette.  They also, so very charmingly, have included lots of recipes that are interspersed throughout their tongue-in-check chapters that are cleverly named Dying Tastefully in the Mississippi Delta; The Methodist Ladies vs. the Episcopal Ladies; Who Died? Stuffed Eggs, Etiquette, and Delta Pâté; I Was So Embarrassed I Liketa Died; Suitably Boxed: Meringue Shells, Pecan Tassies…and You, just to name a few.

I love how Metcalfe and Hays have taken a serious subject like death/funerals and put a nice, fresh twist on facing the final curtain.  They even managed to sneak in several references to death like “to die for” and “dying to get in,” so you might find yourself dying of laughter reading this book.  Just in case you might want to use some of the recipes, don’t worry, you won’t need to wait for someone to pass on to glory for you to try them out.

When it comes to pimiento cheese, I’m pretty sure that you will find a divided audience.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  I get a craving for it about once a year, so I’m surprised to find that these ladies, who refer to it as Southern Pâté, included six variations of it in their book.  The recipe that stands out for me is called Beer-Cheese Pimiento.  To make it, using a food processor, blend together 8 ounces grated extra sharp cheese, 8 ounces grated red rind cheese or mild American cheese, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, ½ tablespoon salt, ½ tablespoon dry mustard, ½ cup beer – not “lite,” several splashes of Tabasco, 1 small jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, and mayonnaise to taste.  After blending, add ¼ cup pistachio nuts – or more to taste – and finish blending.  This will make about one quart of PC – more than enough for lots of sandwiches or to eat with chips.  Wondering what to do with the rest of that beer?  Well, drink it of course and enjoy!

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Eat It – It’s Good for You!

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By Gini Rainey

Now that we are a week down the road from Mother’s Day, I would imagine things around your  house – and kitchen – have pretty much returned to normal.  We’re past breakfast in bed for mom or a meal at her favorite restaurant, and if your kids are anything like my kids were, you’re starting to hear “I don’t like that” or “why don’t we ever have what I like to eat” at meal time.  As a young mom on a limited budget, keeping a family of four food-happy seemed to be a daily struggle – trying to please everyone – that I nearly threw my hands up in the air and said, “Let them eat cake!”

However, being the ever-resourceful person that I was, I came up with a plan.  I sat the four of us down, gave everyone five pieces of paper and asked them to write down their favorite meals.  When they were done, I put all the papers into a bowl and with my calendar in front of me, we drew them out one at a time and entered them in the Monday thru Friday boxes for a month.  Then, I patiently explained to the girls that this was how it was going to be – Mom’s Cafeteria Calendar would rule our daily menus, and if one of us didn’t like what was going to be served, just be patient, because ‘something you will like’ would come along soon.

I will admit that one of my favorite meals to prepare is spaghetti, and I will also admit that I generally would make it on Wednesdays, which were a nightmare for the Taxi Mom.  This was a meal I could prepare ahead of time and have dinner on the table in the least amount time.  In later years, the girls told me they always knew what we were having for dinner after dance lessons, because we ALWAYS had spaghetti on Wednesdays.

Well, all of this is to say that Dom DeLuise put together a great cookbook filled with his Mama’s recipes, as well as some from his friends and celebrities. DeLuise, the quintessential Italian wrote, “Eat This…It’ll Make You Feel Better!” It was published in 1988 by Pocket Books and is filled with some really terrific recipes and photographs of, not only Dom and his family, but also the likes of Ronald Reagan, Ricardo Montalbon, Anne Bancroft, and Burt Reynolds. There are also lots of tales about Dom and his friends that are written in such a great way it’s like you can almost hear him talking off the page.

While we often think of Italian cooking as being hearty and loaded with calories, nothing could be farther from the truth with this cookbook.  The majority of this book leans towards a healthier cooking/eating style and reflects Dom’s attitude about natural flavors, i.e. “Salt may be good for melting ice in your driveway, but let’s face it, it is not very good for you.”

Well, here’s a dish that sounds really yummy and is good for you, too.  Broccoli with Rigatoni by itself sounds great, but can also be augmented with chicken and mushrooms for a heartier version.  In a large skillet, heat 8 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter and gently brown 4 minced garlic cloves.  Add a bunch of broccoli that has been separated into florets (reserve the stems for another use) and stir gently until the pan gets very hot.  Add 1 cup of chicken broth, cover, and simmer just until the broccoli is al dente.  Meanwhile, cook one pound of rigatoni until al dente and then add to the skillet, along with ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil.  Mix thoroughly and put on a hot serving dish and sprinkle with another ½ cup fresh basil, pepper, fresh, chopped parsley, and grated romano or parmeson cheese. Serve with crusty bread and a tossed green salad.

Mangia!

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