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Families Are the Best!

ben wheeler

By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

I just drove back from Arlington. where the family gathered today to celebrate the youngest little’s second birthday.  Both of my daughters put on great birthday parties for their children and grandchildren, and today was no exception.  Lisa always has a theme going for the day, and Sam’s (her grandson) party had a barnyard theme.  The table was loaded with lots of fresh veggies and fruit, as well as a “cow” cake, ‘cow pies,’ mini-bales of hay (marshmallow/rice cereal treats), and 14102150_10207241244764740_8528561875198519720_nmore.  What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with family, eating cake, and celebrating life!

Another great way to spend a Sunday afternoon for me is either cooking or reading – or both!  My sister gave an incredibly beautiful cookbook for Christmas a few years ago – “Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America’s Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans” by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer.  This amazing book was published in 2010 by the Taunton Press and has 295 pages that are filled with some of the most beautiful color and black and white photos.  The recipes feature some of the best our land has to offer.  Described by Padma Lakshmi, Emmy-nominated host of Top Chef as “a sumptuous and sensually beautiful book,” it contains a wealth of information about the people who produce and cook the bounty of the harvests in our country.

While you might just want to add this book to your collection for the informative text that is skillfully presented, you also might want it for ideas of how to prepare some of the lovely produce and meats that you can pick up from your local fresh markets.  The photo of the Pan-Roasted Beef Rib-Eye with Fresh Red Currant Pan Sauce is so tantalizing, as is the
harvestCrème Fraîche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes.  The Lamb Saddle with Caramelized Fennel and Wild Mushrooms, although a bit labor-intensive, would make a lovely dish for guests or family for a holiday or a Sunday afternoon gathering.

The next Sunday that I have the time, I’m going to make the Strawberry Cheesecake with Balsamic-Roasted Strawberries.  To make this, you will first need to make a graham cracker crust in a springform pan; and although a recipe is included, it pretty much is standard, with the addition of a teaspoon of lemon zest to the graham crackers.  The best part of this cheese cake is the fresh strawberries!  You will need 3 pints, hulled, with 2 pints cut in half and one left whole.

In a medium bowl, toss the 2 pints of halved strawberries with ¼ cup of sugar and let macerate for 10 minutes.  Put the strawberries and their juice in a food processor and process until smooth.  Then, in a medium saucepan, heat ¼ cup water over a low heat and add 2 ½ teaspoons of unflavored gelatin (or agar-agar); cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the gelatin (agar-agar) is dissolved.  Add ½ cup milk, ½ heavy cream, ¾ cup sugar, and 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, whisking until smooth and slightly warmed, but not boiling hot.  Remove from the heat and add the strawberry pureé, 1-1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, 1-1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, let cool and pour into the cooled crust.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.  Just before serving, heat the oven to 450°, toss the remaining berries with ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.  Spread the berries on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the strawberries are slightly browned, but not mushy; transfer to a bowl with the juices.  To serve, remove the cheese cake from the springform pan, cut into slices and top with a few of the roasted strawberries and their juices.  Get ready for some great compliments on a lovely and delicious dessert!



Day Two of Our Stay At Home Order

By Gini Rainey

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m so glad I have nearly five hundred cookbooks in my arsenal, although most of them won’t do me any good a time like this, which is why I’m so glad that I picked up this little cookbook about a month ago. Yes, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars might just make a difference in my life (or not) when our food supplies begin to run out.  Fortunately, our household has plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, and food (if you think I’m going to tell you my address – think again), but should we run short, it’s good to know that, not only do I have about a week’s supply of ramen to fall back on, but also a cookbook with some fairly awful recipes and in-mates stories to fall back on. 

Written by Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Star Trek, and West World, among others) and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez (inmate extraordinaire) and printed in 2015 by Workman Publishing, this off-beat cookbook attempts to elevate the lowly ramen noodle to a higher level.  I never knew there were so many ways to “cook” ramen, although a lot of times, the recipes mostly call for just soaking in tepid tap water, depending on the availability of water temperature in the chef’s cell. 

Not the least bit tongue-in-cheek, the recipes, along with accompanying stories that have been included, are contributed by various inmates (past and present) of jails/prisons in the California penal system and show a lot of creative imagination on the part of the inmates.  Using whatever commissary items available, they have been able to create everything from a PB&J and a ramen tamale to Hit Man Burritos and Trejo’s Machete Ramen.  You remember Danny Trejo, don’t you? Before he became known for playing the anti-hero in dozens of movies and TV series, he was a drug counselor. Seems he also served a little bit of time. 

Trejo isn’t the only “celebrity” who contributed. Tarryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Shia Labeouf (Man Down), David Anthony Fausino (Married…with Children), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), and Slash (Guns and Roses) also shared their recipes and stories in this book. 

I can hear all of you now, shouting at your screen “But, what about a recipe?” Let me tell you, right now, we should all be thankful that we aren’t really incarcerated and hopefully these mandated, life-saving orders aren’t life sentences, because I’m pretty sure we really won’t need to fall back on any desperate measures for food. However, if you insist, one of the least stomach challenging recipes is for “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup,” which is pretty much your basic ramen.  If you should choose to be a bit more adventuresome, you could always up your game and make “Frankie’s Soup in the Hole,” which adds one chopped Slim Jim to “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup.” 

So, let me leave you this thought: we’re all in this together and we will survive.  Be thankful for your family, be thankful for the health care professionals and be thankful you live in America. Stay healthy and happy and appreciate the smaller things in life, like sun shining, birds singing and life living. 

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Give the Girl a Sammich!

stanleys bbq tyler tx eguide magazine

By Gini Rainey

Right now, considering all that is going on in our world, the KISS method would seem to be the best way to go with everything.  You know, Keep It Simple Silly!  I bought some new and weird cookbooks recently on ebay and I thought this might be a good time to share one of them with any of you out there that might still check periodically to see if I’m still around. Which, by the way, is probably an excellent thing for all of us to be doing right now. Give a call to some of the folks (or all of the folks) in your life who are important to you today. Our lives have all change dramatically in the past few weeks and it’s never too late to let people you love know you care. 

I was chatting with my sister a little bit ago and I reminded her of the time that I had the Asian Flu.  I checked with Google earlier to determine when that pandemic made its way around and discovered it was in 1957 – when I was nine years old. I was sick with it around Halloween time and what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to a kid when they’re nine and sick around Halloween?  Right! They can’t go Trick or Treating! My sister, who is eight years older than I and was in high school, offered to take a grocery sack around the neighborhood to collect candy for her poor little sister who was stuck at home, bedded down on the couch, with a raging fever. 

My dad, whose creativity knew no bounds, drug a six-foot ladder up out of the basement and dressed it in his overcoat.  He put our jack o lantern on the very top of the ladder, ran a string through the sleeve of the coat, and over to me on the couch.  When the doorbell rang, some poor unsuspecting, candy-hungry kid was greeted by the door slowly being opened by a ghoulish giant of a pumpkin-headed man swinging his arm maniacally at them. 

I’m sure mom made sandwiches that evening, just to keep things simple. (nice segue, huh!?!) It’s too bad she didn’t have had a copy of Scanwiches in her cookbook arsenal. This book, written by Jon Chonda and published by PowerHouse Books in 2011, is definitely one of a kind. It features amazing cross-section scans of sandwiches, along with the ingredients, place of origin, and bits of trivia. The range of sandwiches go from the super simple and humble grilled cheese sandwich all the way to a seven-layer Dagwood. From the strictly home-grown Elvis favorite of peanut butter and banana to the French Pan Bagnat and the Chinese Rou Jia Mo.  We’ve all eaten sandwiches, but the beautifully high definition scanned cross section photos of the sandwiches included in this book puts a whole new spin on the humble sandwich. Speaking of dinner, just looking through this book will give you a king-sized hunger for something yummy to eat! 

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