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Strange Stuff We Eat – Or Don’t

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By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

I was just sitting here, praying for inspiration, and entering a few new cookbooks (yes, I went crazy again this week and bought some more!) into my data base.  One of them, “The Kitchen Sink Cookbook,” got me started thinking about all of the interesting dishes that evolve in families and become standard fare that people outside that family have never heard of, or even eaten.  Take me, for instance.  When my mother and I moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Tyler, Texas, you can imagine the food culture shock we experienced.  I’ve already shared with you my mom’s interpretation of “Chicken Spaghetti” in my blog entry on May 8th of this year.  If you missed that one and need an “OMG” moment, you can dig back through the archives.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a born and bred in East Texas cook and my transition from Yankee food to southern cooking was made less painful because of her pretty darn good family cooking.  However, I had never had a lot of the dishes she cooked, so meals at her house were usually very interesting.  Her chicken spaghetti was amazing and her chicken fried steak didn’t take much of an effort to enjoy, because she served with cream gravy, and being a Norwegian, most everything we eat is either white or we cover it up with a white sauce to make it white.

But, there were all those peas and beans that kept showing up.  The only peas and beans I was familiar with at that time were English peas and green beans.  At her house I learned all about crowders, creams, black-eyes, purple hulls,and fields, and now my lovely ‘English’ peas were being incorporated into a salad along with little cubes of cheddar cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise.  I still haven’t been able to make myself eat any of that.  And, the beans?  Well, now we were having pinto beans and rice, refried beans, and butter beans.  And greens?  I won’t even go there!

I will go to this book, though.  “The Kitchen Sink Cookbook,” written by Carolyn Wyman book and published by Birch Lane Press in 1997, encourages the reader to “put the fun back in your food!” While the recipes are all intended to be used, the author and publisher posted a disclaimer in the introduction that they will not take, or assume any responsibility for their safety or deliciousness.  That in itself is a bit scary, and also what makes this one interesting read.

Among some of the more interesting recipes, and not necessarily ones that I would try to serve my family, are Burger Dessert Squares (yup, it calls for 2 pounds of ground beef), ‘Pooch Pāté’ (made with, you guessed it dog or cat food, but they do allow for a substitution of baby food for pet food), Corn Cob Jelly, Pollen Pancakes (main ingredient: cattail pollen), Black-Eyed Pea Guaca-Jell-O Salad, Chocolate Cricket Torte, Beer Sorbet,  and Tabasco Ice Cream.  Some of the less weird recipes included are Onion Sandwiches, Bathtub Bread, Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, and Apple Lasagne (which is a whole lot like Jewish kugel and is a dessert recipe developed by the North Dakota Wheat Commission).

Lest I gross you out any further, I would love to share with you my mother-in-law’s recipe for Red Beans.  Because so many of my husband’s family seemed to develop gall stones, I used to joke it was because they all ate so much red beans and rice – that is, until I developed gall stones.  Nothing funny about that!  For her recipe start with 1 pound of dried pinto beans – the lighter colored beans are the freshest.  Wash the beans and remove any stones – yes, there are sometimes stones in these dried beans.  Put in a heavy, 4 quart pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Drain and re-cover with hot water and add 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours until tender, adding hot water as needed.  Now, add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of ketchup.  Simmer on low until ready to serve.  She always serves them up with a big bowl of rice – it helps to sop up all the good sauce.  Now, that’s some might good, East Texas kind of good home cookin’!

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The Cookbook Junkie

This Is To Die For!

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!

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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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