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See How It Jiggles!

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By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

In Texas right now, we are experiencing full blown spring!  And, in Tyler we are in the middle of the Azalea Trails Festival season.  Unfortunately, as in the case of many other years, someone forgot to tell good old Mother Nature the dates for the Festival, so she started the season a little too early and most of the blooms are no longer showing their brilliant colors, but rather are beginning to look a bit worn out and drab.  At least that would be the case for our azaleas.  However, there is still one more promise of beautiful blooms left for our yard when the Granny Smith apple tree will get all loaded up with the blossoms that will provide all the neighborhood squirrels with their annual dose of fruit during the summer.

My apple tree, a gift from two of my grandchildren 16 years ago, was planted, begrudgingly, in the front yard by my husband when we moved to our current home.  Just the same, this tree holds a great deal of meaning for me.  First and foremost, it was a gift from Ashleigh and Dylan, and secondly, it reminds me of the apple trees that surrounded the house where I grew up in Minnesota.

Those apple trees would bloom every year around Mothers’ Day, and being the creative youngster that I was, a bunch of the blossoms would be crafted into a corsage for my mom to wear to church.  My mom must have been a saint, because after I cut several small branches from the trees, I would wrap the stems in wet Kleenex and tin foil, and my mom, with the front of her dress damp and sagging, would wear her corsage to church with as much pride as a mom could muster!

Speaking of my mom, if you were to line up all the cooks in my family – living and/or dead – from the best to the worst, I’m afraid my mom would not have come in first!  It’s not that she was a bad cook, but there’s a book in my collection “The Gallery of Regrettable Food” by James Lileks that almost seems to showcase a lot of her recipes.  This book that was foodpublished in 2001 by Crown Publishers, comes with the disclaimer “This is not a cookbook.  You’ll find no tongue-tempting treats within…No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service.”  It is filled with “generous portions of hilarity and ghastly pictures from retro cookbooks, a lot of them I recognize from my mother’s collection.

One chapter delves into the mysteries of Jell-o in all shapes and forms.  In our house, Saturday was generally not complete unless my mom was in the kitchen whipping up a congealed (enough said) salad for lunch on Sunday.  I can remember her grating carrots, chopping walnuts, celery, and god knows what else, combining all of it with lemon Jell-o and pouring it into a mold with so much pride.  All I know about those salads is, as a kid, I hated them.  Once you had a bite of it in your mouth, it took FOREVER to chew up whatever solids were in them after the Jell-o melted away.  And, of course, in those days you had to clean your plate if you wanted to go back outside to play.

I don’t know if it is because of those memories that we don’t use much Jell-o in our house,  but about the only time we make it is if somebody has a bit of a stomach virus and that’s about it.  However, there is a recipe that my mother-in-law uses Jell-o in that really is pretty good.  We call it (are you ready for this?) Grandmother’s Pink Salad.  Ta-Da!  She takes a pint of small curd cottage cheese and sprinkles a package of dry raspberry, cherry, or strawberry Jell-o on top and then folds in a small can of crushed pineapple (drained) and a small carton of Cool Whip and refrigerates it before serving.  And, here’s some good news for those of my readers who have indicated a dislike for cottage cheese; you can make it without the curd and it is just as good!  It really has a great taste and texture, but not the ubiquitous look of the wiggly, molded salad with an assortment of floating vegetables in it like those I grew up with.  And, talk about easy and yummy!  Yup!  Now scoot to the kitchen!  You know you want some!

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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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Blogs

Foodie Events: June 14th – Rosé All Day

Foodie Events

Every Saturday (8am-12 noon) – The Rose City Farmers Market is open at its new location at 236 S. Broadway Ave., just a half block north of Front St. in the parking lot of Bill’s Unclaimed Furniture. The market is open from April to November. This is across from “Moss, Where Flowers are Fair” and ETX Brewing Co. There is free parking in the Fair Plaza Parking Garage across the street. The Rose City Farmers Market is a family- and dog-friendly community gathering place, providing locally-grown produce, herbs, wood oven breads, pastries and granola, jams, pickles, locally roasted coffee, cheese, artists and artisans, live music, and sometimes even yoga. They are open every Saturday, April through November, 8am-12 noon. For more info on the market or to apply to be a vendor, contact (903)539-2875, info@foodcoalition.org, or foodcoalition.org.

Tyler Farmers Market is located in the parking lot of the Broadway Square Mall located at 4601 S. Broadway Ave., Tyler. The Tyler Farmers Market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays 7am-2pm. They feature seasonal items under a big white tent.

June 12th (5-9pm) – Cause an Effect – Dine Out – Make dinner a selfless act and dine at Chipotle, 4751 S. Broadway, Tyler. Mention Bethesda to have 50% of your purchase donating back to the clinic. Donations support programs of providing medical and dental care to the working uninsured or underinsured. For more info go to facebook.com/events/785259894992898.

June 14th (7:15-9:15pm) – Rosé All Day: A Wine Tasting – Come to Cork, 109 E. Grande Blvd., Tyler for this pairing night featuring Rosé wines and exquisite food. Cost is $55. RSVP to Cork.

June 17th (3-10pm) – Fathers Day Shrimp Boil will be held at The Grove, 3500 Old Jacksonville Hwy., Tyler. Celebrate Dad with boiled shrimp and all the sides (sausage, corn, potatoes, onions, and bread) plus live music outside on the lawn. Tickets are $20-$25 and available on Facebook at @TheGroveTyler.

June 20th (7-10pm) – Vintner’s Dinner: Mediterranean – This Mediterranean inspired meal will be sure to transport you to another world. Come join in for this wonderful Summer night of food and wine. July 25th (7-10pm), the Vintner’s Dinner: A Taste of Alaska will be held. This dinner is full of classic Alaska flavors and paired with our exclusive and adventurous wines. These will be held at Kiepersol, 21508 Merlot Ln., Bullard. RSVP by calling (903)894-3300 or go to kiepersol.com, Other Vintner’s Dinners will be September 26th, South of the Border; and November 28th, Fall Harvest.

News

Pazzeria By Pietro’s is coming to Downtown Tyler at the 118 W. Erwin St. This will be a hand-thrown pizzeria which will sell pasta and other classic Italian fare. There are several locations in this small chain that is based out of Marshall, Texas. A sister restaurant, Pietro’s in Longview. Rosaria Filippazzo, along with her husband, Rose Filippazzo co-founded Pietro’s Pizza in the Longview Mall. Her devoted attention to detail and ability to know “what the customer wants” shows in her dedication to her family’s success.

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Books

Eat It – It’s Good for You!

ben wheeler

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!

ben wheeler
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