Friday, February 25, 2011



My family, for staters. It has been brought to my attention that I am NO LONGER welcome to grace family events with Jell-O mold creations. (Yes, this was my contribution for YEARS, and I took great pride in the variety of shapes, colors and ingredients, even if I WAS the only one ever to eat them.)

HOWEVER, some people GET IT! My dear friend Karen, for one: She is offering up a fabulous brand-new Tupperware Jell-O ring as the prize for her latest contest, and YOU can enter! See details on her blog, below:

In addition to also liking Jell-O, Karen and I have many (possibly 97? Possibly more?) things in common: we both like Doritos, Starbucks, vintage clothes, The Beatles, crock pot cookery; we were born in the Same hospital (!), and we have both been asked: DO YOU WORK FOR LONELY PLANET?

So enter Karen's contest, get that Jell-O mixed up, and report back here for my second Jell-O installment, where I describe some of those Jell-O experiments in detail!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wild Rice Casserole

How could anyone resist a book called The Total Woman Cookbook? Actually, at first I just wasn’t sure what to make of it until I read all about Ms. Marabel Morgan, who, it turns out, became a women’s motivational speaker in 1970 after sorting out troubles in her marriage, and wrote a best seller called “The Total Woman”. Well, she can cook, too, so next came a cookbook, (in 1980) which is subtitled the “Handbook for Kitchen Survival”. Instead of being organized by ingredient, the recipes are set out as to what purpose they serve: The Boss is Coming for Dinner, Ho-Hum Tuesdays, Unexpected Dinner Guests, and one for kids called Rainy Day Projects (sounds messy to me, get out the wipes!).

Marbel Morgan is a crack up, quoting from the Bible as well as discussing sex between recipes. (I guess that makes her the Total Woman!) I actually have added her first book, The Total Woman, to my “to read” list (especially if I come by it for a quarter at a garage sale, the way I source most of my books.) but in the mean time, I am happy to work through her quite excellent recipes, whether or not I use them as she has intended. For instance, I made this wild rice casserole from “International Flair” (which I guess means side dishes that don’t convey any particular message) along with her marinated flank steak from the chapter entitled “Time for Romance”, but I served them to my daughter, simply because I was in the mood for steak and there had been a sale on flank steak! I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t always need to “say it with steak” – sometimes it’s just dinner.

The wild rice casserole was a surprise hit with my daughter, who even pointed out that she liked the difference in texture between the rice, mushrooms and the almonds, and I’ve made it several times since, along-side chicken, fish, and yes, steak. I left out the canned water chestnuts, though, and used fresh mushrooms rather than canned. I also used a bizarre but delicious black/purple specialty rice I found called “Forbidden Rice”, and spent the entire time cooking cracking myself up comparing it to that other forbidden: The Lambada, the 80s phenomenon, called The Forbidden Dance.

Wild Rice Casserole

4 Tbsp butter
1 cup wild rice
½ cup slivered almonds
2 Tbsp green onions or chives
1 tsp soy sauce
1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, sliced
3 4-ounce cans mushrooms, drained
3 cups hot chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put all ingredients except broth in heavy frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat 20 minutes, or until almonds are slightly brown. Stir often.
2. Add hot chicken broth; stir. Pour into 2-quart baking dish. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 2 hours.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pink Party Pop Corn

From the iconic book, “Popcorn Potpourri”, (1977) by Larry Kusche (check out his snazzy trousers!) comes this bizarre and yet addictive food product: pink party popcorn. I’m not suggesting you make any of this, or if you do make it, stick to using it for modeling crafts, not consumption…

Still! Pop Corn is always fun, and having found a whole book on it (and one that features the very Hot Air Pop Corn Popper that I had growing up on the cover), I offered to make any recipe in it for Ivy. And naturally, she picked THE grossest one. No, she couldn’t pick something mellow like a nice cheddar cheese coating, or herb butter pop corn. Nor did she pick any of the somewhat creepy sounding ones like Pop Corn with Mushroom Butter, or Pop Corn with Chicken Flavored Butter. This book is filled with literally hundreds of pop corn recipes: The variety! The possibilities! And so, the one pop corn experiment thus became the Great Pop Corn Taste Test, where we tested plain pop corn with salt, the dreaded concoction below, and one that I came up with myself, where I melted a Toblerone bar and drizzled that over plain pop corn. That, strangely, was not bad! Hello, Pop Corn Party! (Later: Hello, Tums…)

To make the Pink Party Pop Corn, I was reminded of something I used to do about once a week in Junior High: make Rice Krispies Treats. The unmistakable scent of melting butter and marshmallows: mmmm… but then adding Jell-O in powder form to it… makes it a veritable sugar bomb, and also disturbingly bright. I was horrified by the stuff as I mixed it up, but then something happened, and I… HAD TO EAT IT ALL! We could barely even do a taste test, because I was so busy gobbling it up. And it turned out that Ivy, who selected that recipe, preferred the chocolate version. Either way, I still say pop corn is fun, but I know to step away from the marshmallows, lest I become a Pink Party Pop Corn addict!

Pink Party Popcorn

(actual note from the book: you can match the color of the popcorn to your decorating scheme.)

3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups miniature marshmallows
4 Tbsp strawberry-flavored gelatin
2 qts. popped popcorn

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir marshmallows into the melting bitter. Let them soften but not melt completely. Add the gelatin. Stir until butter-marshmallow mixture is evenly colored. Gelatin does not have to be dissolved. Drizzle over popcorn and mix well. Makes 2 quarts.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tanya Tucker’s Chicken Chili

Chili is one of my favorite foods in the Universe, so I know I’m gonna like a cookbook that features more than one recipe for it - and this book has no less than 7. I already have a few variations that I love, but I won’t hesitate to try a new chili recipe, especially one from Country Music Sweet Heart, Tanya Tucker. She says it: “Cleans your teeth, curls your hair, and makes you feel like a millionaire,” and I must agree!

There was no way I could pass up this book, being a huge fan of country music and vintage cookery. From the down-home recipes, to the bio snippets, to the very, very 80s portrait photography, it is a hoot and a holler. I found several recipes to try, and I even found a few I’d seen before under different names! (I will certainly need to try Dolly Parton's Apple Stack Cake, Kenny Rogers' Country Chicken Salad, The Oak Ridge Boys' Lasagne, and Tom T. Hall's Watermellon Wine!) Oh, the joy that 99 cents can still bring.

From “Cooking with Country Music Stars” (1986) comes this yummy chicken chili, which I have made exactly as described here, and also another time using pre-cooked rotisserie chicken leftovers; both were divine. And although shops in California don’t often carry Ro-Tel, you can always find some type of canned tomato and chili mixture if you poke around. Note that Ms. Tucker kindly includes the amount of Sweet-n-Low you’d need to use, if you so desired. I guess that means she likes both kinds of music: Country AND Western!

Tanya Tucker’s Chicken Chili

1-2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp vegetable shortening
1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes (canned tomatoes and chilies)
1 ½ cups stewed tomatoes
3-4 cups kidney beans (better with homemade beans)
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar (or 1 packet Sweet-n-low)
¼ cup dry red wine
3 Tbsp chili powder (add more if you like)
4 chicken breast halves
1 Tbsp sherry
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups chicken broth (if chili is too hot)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté onions and garlic in shortening until tender. Add Ro-Tel and stewed tomatoes, kidney beans, salt, bay leaf, sugar, wine and chili powder. Simmer together for 1 hour.

Boil chicken breasts for 1 hour in water seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Drain and reserve broth. Remove skin from cooked chicken and shred by hand or in a food processor. Add to tomato and bean mixture. Simmer to 1 hour. Add sherry and Worcestershire sauce. Add chicken broth if desired for consistency and taste.

Serves “a bunch.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Champagne Cocktail

In celebration of my first year of blogging, I decided to make a Champagne cocktail. Easy enough to just pour out, and delight in, a glass of Champagne, but that hardly requires a recipe, and therefore doesn’t qualify for a blog entry, and we just can’t have that, now can we? Nope. So I pulled out a little bottle of bubbly, and had a look through my recipe books.

This “Bar Guide”, listed as “Authentic and Hilarious” was published by True, The Men’s Magazine, in 1950. (I love the oh-so-50s sayings and bizarre illustrations by Vip!) I picked this recipe for the Champagne Cocktail not because it is any different from those in any of my other drinks books, but because there is a truly “authentic and hilarious” introduction to the entire section on making cocktails with Champagne:

The Champagne cocktail, often known as Chorus Lady Milk, is the aristocrat of wine cocktails. However, those who don’t like chorus ladies consider it a waste of good Champagne. There is only one way to drink Champagne, they insist – neat, from a lady’s slipper. They urge that rather than ruin a bottle of good vintage Piper-Heidsieck in a mix, use any grade of domestic Champagne, say Old Rainspout, 1951.

They, of course, are the spoilsports. To be able to step up and say stiffly, “Two Champagne cocktails, please, Louis Rodier ’26, brut! Throw the rest of the bottle away!” is something to have lived for. To be able to pay for it is even more worth while.

Champagne Cocktail

1 cube Sugar
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Place sugar in glass and saturate with bitters. Pour chilled Champagne over and serve without stirring.

“Here’s Champagne to our real friends, and real pain to our sham friends.”