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Friday, February 20, 2009

Depression Food For Discussion


NO..I'm not talking about what one eats when they are depressed..(Though if you had seen my paycheck from the last two weeks worth of work, you would go eat yourself an entire chocolate bar, specifically the humongous size that they sell at the Hershey's store in Times Square..)
I was looking at my schedule for the month, at the hospital where I am working, (if you can call it that), and out of 9 scheduled shifts, I Have Only Been Allowed To Work 3 Shifts!...hence the paycheck that is joke-worthy..(Doesn't even cover my rent!..What am I suppose to do with this kind of money? New shoelaces? Rent a couple of movies? Buy a few, and only a few, things at the Grocery Store, and hope that futuristically we have somewhere to cook and eat them?)
I know, I know, as everyone says, "Something will come along"...WWWHHHHEEEEENNNNNN?

THE YEARS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION

That has been on my mind a lot lately, basically because I am for all intent and purposes, pretty much unemployed, and for other reasons as well.
I am not a "denial" type of person (though I think that those that are, are abundantly happier folks than I could ever hope to be..."la de da" and "tomorrows another day" have always just been either something Annie Hall would say, or some type of foreign language, and I only speak English....)
I am a CNN junkie, which I have previously mentioned, and let's face it guys..."IT JUST DON'T LOOK GOOD OUT THERE"...nor in the foreseeable future. If you have not already lost money in the stock market, or have not been layed off from your job, well Bless your little Heart! Now hit the floor and say 100 "Hail Mary's" immediately, and set the alarm, and plan to do it on an hourly basis! There's no time to waste!
So, I have been looking into those economically horrific years, listened to my parents discuss it, and have done a little research (yeah, and what else am I suppose to be doing?...Hell, I might as well educate myself a bit during this unemployed period!! "Ah may be poor but Ahm smart asa whip!")
I will only cover an aspect of it in this particular post, and do follow ups on other aspects in posts to come...
I decided to start out with a typical question any self respecting "foodie" would ask themselves, which is....WHAT DID PEOPLE EAT?

CHAPTER I Or "What did they eat during the depression?"
Across the nation, hungry people waited in "soup lines" for a free meal, especially in larger cities.
"On the farm, growing, tending, preparing, and preserving food took many hours of work. There was no electricity to power refrigerators, so it was difficult to keep milk and other foods fresh, especially during the summer heat."
Yet even during the Depression, many new foods were invented or introduced. Some of them we are still very familiar with today, or you may even find in your own food cabinet:


SPAM ( okay, you don't have to admit it if you have this, or you could say it's for the dog)
KRAFT MACARONI AND CHEESE
TOLL HOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
GOOD HUMOR ICE CREAM BARS
BISQUICK
KRISPY CREME DOUGHNUTS ( what? and we had to hold out for 80 years? Note of interest here...The news reports that they are going bankrupt..Too bad you can't stock up..Nothing worse than stale doughnuts)
Ritz Crackers
Nestle's Chocolate Chips
And Kool-Aid was invented in Hasting, Nebraska in the late 20s and became a national brand in the 30s.
Also during the 1930s, Colonel Harland Sanders developed a secret formula of spices to flavor the fried chicken at his Sanders Court and Café (motel and restaurant) in Corbin, Kent, Kentucky.
In towns and cities, some women entertained in their homes, often at an afternoon tea with dainty sandwiches, nut breads, and tiny cookies. Women's clubs met for luncheons of sandwich loaves or creamed meat and vegetables in patty shells. Sugar prices were low, so women created desserts, cakes, cookies, and used marshmallows for the now-favorite Rice Krispie treats.
As more homes were connected to electricity, more people bought refrigerators and freezers. Clarence Birdseye* of Massachusetts introduced 26 frozen vegetables, fruits, fish and meats to consumers. (*I cannot being to tell you how many frozen Birdseye veggies are in my freezer...THANK YOU CLARENCE!)

To give credit, where credit is certainly due, I obtained this information from "Wessels Living History Farm in York Nebraska"...(thank you as well, Wessels!)

CHAPTER II (or let's talk about Fried Pies, as well as get a Recipe for em!)

This is also a blog about fried pies.. delicious and hard to find these days ( when you do they are usually inferior in terms of quality). They were and are such a delectable, economical, and tasty treat

I had to research a little history about them as well ...I know that they were eaten during the "Great Depression", as I was told that my Grandfather would take these and put them in his pocket when he went down into the mines to work...They are very "portable" and keep well. Often they were filled with meat.

"Fried pies are a Southern tradition and came about as a way for frugal cooks to use every bit of food. According to How to Eat Fried Pies by writer Paul Lukas (April 1, 2006, The New York Sun), "Fried pie history is sketchy. Before cold storage and imports made apples available year-round, lots of folks sliced up their fresh apples and then dried them, which was an effective means of long-term preservation. According to the book Apple Pie: An American Story by Southern food historian John Edge, "Many of those dried apples ended up in fried pies. From dried to fried—nice." (Let me once again give credit where credit is due, and that would be to our friends at the "Ozark Folk Center", where they apparently cannot keep enough fried pies to make their visitors happy...Fried pies are STILL their number one best seller...)
WHY, YOU ASK? " MY GOD, THEY ARE CERTAINLY NOT WHAT ONE WANTS TO EVEN ADMIT TO KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT IN THIS DAY AND AGE, WITH OUR KNOWLEDGE OF CHOLESTEROL AND ARTERIAL PLAQUE!!!!!!!!!"
Hey, I am not suggesting that you make this a habit. I am just here to inform you of an easy to prepare, economical, heartwarming, and delicious alternative to the next nightly bowl of ice cream that you ladle up, that's all.
There is only one place, where I live, that I KNOW has delicious fried pies...They are too far away, so I never have one, but I know people who do, and they can barely get through the description of "Peggy Sue's Fried Apricot Pies", without drooling...(so very embarrassing...somebody hand that girl a kleenex...)

This Is "Peggy Sue's" Original Recipe...

1/3 cup shortening (hello...Crisco)
2 cups self-rising flour(notice SELF RISING)
2/3 cup ice water
1 package dried apricots
1 cup sugar
1/4 teasp. ground allspice or cinnamon
Oil for frying ( My experience is that the best oil for frying is Peanut or Corn Oil...I know, I know, it is not as healthy as Canola, but for heaven's sake, you're making fried pies here, not tofu!)

Combine shortening and flour in work bowl of food processor...(don't ask me what they did during the depression...uh...they worked harder?...yeah, that's it)_
Pulse several times, until mixture resembles cornmeal.
Sprinkle with ice water, and pulse briefly, until water is mixed into dough.
Remove from work bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Dice apricots into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in heavy saucepan and cover with water.
Cover with lid and simmer until apricots are tender.
Remove lid and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
Add sugar and spice of your choice and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and let cool while dough is resting.
To assemble, divide pastry into eight portions.
On floured board, roll each int a 6-inch circle.
Place 1/4 cup of filling in center, moisten edges with a little water, then fold pastry circles in half.
Press edges with a fork dipped in flour, and cook immediately or freeze.
For fresh pies, deep-fry in oil preheated to 375 degrees for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cook frozen pies, at the same temperature and without defrosting, for about 4 minutes.
To cook in a large skillet, use about 1/2 inch of corn oil and fry pies over medium-heat for about 2 minutes on each side.
Drain finished pies on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 8 amazing fried pies.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ONE OF MY BEST RECIPES


SASSY, SCRUMPTUOUS, SAVORY SALMON CAKES

When I want to make something I know everyone will love,(as well as “WOW EM”), I turn to these light and fresh salmon cakes, made with poached salmon, and very similiar to Maryland Crab Cakes..You can serve these with your favorite homemade Remoulade sauce (there are some good recipes on Foodbuzz.com for that), topped with your favorite pickled chow-chow or some sort of pickled veggie, OR with the “Hot Stuff” tartar sauce that I will post, (very yummy), or simply with a wedge of lemon…they’re THAT GOOD!
*First Poach the Salmon
4 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
4 springs celery leaves
6 springs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teasp. coarse salt
6 black peppercorns
1-1 1/2 lb. fresh salmon fillets

Prepare the poaching liquid:
Combine all ingredients except the salmon in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the salmon fillets and simmer until cooked through (the salmon should flake easily with a fork), 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spatula, remove the salmon from the poaching liquid and set it aside to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and flake the salmon into a large bowl. Set aside
NOTE…If you wanted to, you could do the poaching the night before, or earlier in the day that you’re going to serve it.


Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs..should be in your grocery store..If not, then you could always use regular dry bread crumbs, but Panko causes the crispiness to be perfect..)
1 TBLSP. chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teasp. of dried thyme
1 teasp. dried oregano
1/2 teasp. dry mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup prepared good mayonnise
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup of 1/4 inch diced celery
1 TBLSP. drained tiny capers, chopped
1 TBLSP. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teasp. Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 TBLSP. of olive oil (more if needed)
Hot stuff Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)

Prepare the Cakes
Combine 1/4 cup bread crumbs with thyme, oregano, mustard, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Mix well, and add to the salmon with the mayonnaise, onion, celery, capers, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and egg.
Fold( don’t mix to death), the mixture together with a rubber spatula.
Place the 1 cup of Panko (or dry bread crumbs) in a shallow dish.
Form the salmon mixture into 10 patties, each 2 1/2 inches x 1 inch.
Dredge the patties in the crumbs(Panko).
Place them in a single layer on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour (longer is best)
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Saute the cakes until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. (Add more oil as necessary).
Drain the cakes on paper towels.
Serve immediately, topped with you choice of toppings…
Note: If you set your oven to 200 or so, you can keep the cakes warm while you fry the others…The most important thing about frying ANYTHING, is that your oil is the right temperature, before you add more to the pan…whether it is frying chicken or sauteeing salmon cakes.
Makes 10 salmon cakes, serves 5
Note: You could always do these for appetizers, and make them smaller
YET ANOTHER NOTE..(yawn)Any good cook will tell you that one can make any recipe their own by adding a few different ingredients..Sometimes I add a small amount of tiny diced yellow or red pepper, poblano peppers, chives…..let your imagination be your guide, as that is the fun of cooking…

Hot Stuff Tartar Sauce
(This is really not hot…just a bit spicier than regular Tartar Sauce..If you want more heat, then add more jalapeno or don’t seed it…..If you want less heat, leave the jalapeno out altogether..still delicious)
1 cup quality Mayonnaise
1 teasp. Dijon mustard
1 teasp. tomato paste (this is where the kind in the tube comes in handy)
1 teasp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Tabasco sauce, or to taste(of course I use much more..see my "Love affair with Mr. Tabsaco" post)
2 Tblsp.. very finely chopped sweet pickle
2 Tblsp. finely minced shallots
2 Tblsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teasp. finely minced and seeded fresh jalapeno pepper (fresh)
1 Tblsp. tiny capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, tomato paste, lemon zest, lemon juice. Tabasco sauce, and pickles in a bowl.
Stir in the shallots, parsley, jalapeno, capers, and salt and pepper.
Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend, and for up to 2 days. Note:.Better flavor if you give it at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before serving.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups (good on really anything...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GUILTY PLEASURES


Everyone has them..No one likes to mention them to others..not even to themselves...

I consider "Guilty Pleasures" to be one of the joys of existence, and without them, we would be seriously BORED.

What is the definition of a Guilty Pleasure? In my mind, it means something personally enjoyable, that you would prefer not to broadcast to the world, especially to those who know you, because somehow whatever it is, you perceive that it's somewhat "beneath you", or the image that you like to project to others..

Consulting the Urban Dictionary, I found that someone described it perfectly...

"Keeping a secret collection of ABBA and Carpenters and listening to their albums when no one else is around"....Is that great or what?

Here are some of mine

1. Catching up on the " National Enquirer" on the sly, after PURPOSELY searching for the Longest Line to wait in at the Grocery Store. (Gotta have time to speed read the best spoofs about Tom Cruise and Cher...) Now that's the kind of stuff worth going grocery shopping for....Of course I CAN'T BUY IT..."Heavens No!"....Just need to hit on the most bizarre stories in the shortest amount of time. I used to look around me...now I just stick my nose in it and indulge!


2. Strawberry Popsicles...I have one ( okay, sometimes two, but they are the "natural fruit" kind ) almost every evening, (substitute for the evening wine I gave up, I guess) and if I am out of them, I have been known to DRIVE a mile to fetch another box...(Oh paleese...like I'm really gonna walk...)


3. REAL HOUSEWIVES Of or From ANYWHERE...My favorite is "Real Housewives of New York", but I Have and Will watch every single version...Is there anything more mindless and trashy? I can't think of anything...These women are horrific in every way!!!I don't know why I absolutely adore them...It really does embarrass me, but it doesn't stop... Season after Season after Season..If I'm not home, it's always on the DVR....Of course, there are other shows I succumb to as well...Just about anything reality that is aired on Bravo hooks me line and sinker..

4. Going to Neiman Marcus and trying all of the expensive perfume samples...The problem with this, is that once you smell the best, you don't want anything else...(Moral of the story, never get used to the best, unless you can ALWAYS afford the best...That, many would tell you, is an ongoing theme in my life...Now I'm pretty much unemployed...You figure it out..) When I was already unemployed a couple of months ago, but was on an already paid for luxury trip to Las Vegas, the minute I was up a few hundred dollars, instead of losing it like I would normally do and continue playing, I left the slots, and went straight over to the Jo Malone shop in the Wynn Hotel where I was staying, and bought 4 bottles of perfume with the winnings...I obviously must have done some pretty powerful schtick, and the manager suddenly adored me so much, that he threw in Not One, Not Two, but THREE extra gift bags filled with all kinds of Jo Malone goodies...(Hey...a little comedy here and there NEVER hurts anyone, and surprisingly sometimes it comes back to kiss you on the cheek..) Now if you are not familiar with Jo Malone, and you are financially able, you simply must acquaint yourself with her beauty/fragrant line...You will only find it at Neiman Marcus, unless you are at the Wynn Hotel or in London, the only two places where there is an actual "Jo Malone" Boutique...Hmmm...takes my breath away to even think about it...
5. Disney/Pixar films...If I don't see them in the theater, I will rent them and enjoy them as much, if not more, than the children do..."Ratatouille" should have been up for "Best Picture"...This "Best in Animation" category is hardly sufficient when movies of this quality emerge...
6. Having the habit of ALWAYS staying after at a Broadway production at the STAGE DOOR, so that I will be able to speak with and get an autograph from the stars of the shows...My son still tells people about the "child abuse" that was administered to him by me, because I made him stand outside for over an hour to wait for Vanessa Redgrave (one of my favorite actresses), to emerge from her dressing room. The problem was that it was about 22 degrees..Only one other guy stood with us who was an actor/student at the Actors Studio in New york...We both spoke of her wonderful performance in the film "Julia", her Oscar acceptance speech, where she was "Booed" off the stage due to her controversial political views that she couldn't help but share with the world while holding "Oscar"...I was very young when that was on, but I remember thinking how very brave she was, because she just raised her voice higher as the crowd's "Booos" got louder and the orchestra started playing the "get off the stage...NOW!" song .....To sum this particular little backstage story up, Vanessa finally comes out, and the first thing she does is to come over to me and takes my hands and says "Oh my dear, you must be so very very cold...."...After she got through looking at me, over to my son, and back to me with a look that said "Are you obsessive or what?"..she signed my program, though it was so cold the pen would not work, and we had to search for another...I did get to tell her that her role in "Julia" practically changed my life, but I did not tell her that no one even knows the movie "Julia" anymore, (pity) and that it was so old, that I had to Order it through Barnes and Noble..; NAW...just left that to myself...TIP...If you ever get a chance to see it, you simply must...still holds up today...

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST ....



7. "Intelligent" talk shows, WHEN they feature a movie star as the guest...i.e. Larry King, Charlie Rose...Who am I kidding? It's a friggin talk show with a celebrity on it...Just more of the same "Enquiring" mindset that is obviously very much a part of my makeup...


Now...what are yours? That's what the "comment" section is for...I dare ya..
ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW..

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rant, Realization, and Recipe


I did something concerning cookies/security, whatever, this morning, and the computer freaked out, would not let me open anything, and after 3 hours of fiddling with it, (mind you, I really have no educated ability in this way, just a little experience and basic "try this" skill level.)I think I have it working again...I even mention this at all, because the emotional response from my computer screwing up, always AMAZES me! ( is it just ME?)
When did I start having such a love affair with the frigin computer? When did this object become so important to my very existence? There is something SO WRONG with all of it...Yet just ANOTHER thing to join the list of already addictive behaviors....
I think that I previously mentioned that I gave up a very strong addiction to nicotine, a nightly habit of, what seems to be a lifetime, of a couple of glasses of wine (hmm..sometimes I still miss that one when I come home after a stressful workday..), but there are others....Say reading...Can't seem to go a day without doing a bit of pleasure reading, if nothing more, just before going to sleep (will even stay up later, when it's already late as hell...go figure) Can't seem to completely give up my newest addiction, that of grabbing a Strawberry Smoothie on the way out of work at night (unfortunately, it is right by the door that I go out of), and as far as this computer....well, don't think I even want to go into my complete and absolute addiction with it (hence, the overwhelming emotional response when it screws up...) Arrrgghhhhh! If there is one thing that I do not like about myself, it is my tendency towards ADDICTION!!!!!!!!!
Now that I have released that little rant, I shall go on to other happenings...
I have discovered quite late in life, (which is always amazing to me), that I LOVE Pediatrics...This is so amazing that most of my friends and former co-workers have not been able to bring themselves to believe it...I suppose they would need some sort of video proof...The fact is, that I have been a therapist for 27 years, and the thought of working with little ones, has not only frightened me beyond description, but I wouldn't even consider giving it a go...In the job I am currently working in (no, not full time...I wish...ain't gonna happen...these guys NEVER hire full time), sorry, I digress as usual , in this current work, I was MADE to orient in not only the Adult areas, but also the Pediatric areas....Of course, I complied, needing work as I do...Well low and behold, turns out not only do I like it, I LOVE IT!!! HATE working with their Adult section (not because of the Adults, but because of the way it is set up.)....The Pediatric area consists of mostly babies, some of whom are quite chronically ill....This patient population does not come without hardships...i.e. sometimes it is so sad to see some of these babies/children experiencing their horrific illnesses...i.e. putting up with the "We Are The Right Hand Of God" nurses, who are beyond unfriendly, and in fact somewhat Brutal to new employees that work in "their unit"...things like that...BUT...the rewards are overall worth it...These sweet little creatures (for the most part) are tough little guys, who somehow get through more that most of us could ever conceive of... They are so strong and loving...They are often accompanied by wonderful and admirable parents, who are a pleasure to get to know (conversely, there are angry and difficult ones as well...such is life) Anyway, suffice it to say that new and surprising things CAN happen that are nice and truly unexpected, and unbelievably, don't have anything to do with monetary wealth, upward mobility, or a new fabulous lover/partner, (now I am certainly not knocking any of these things, and would accept them in a heartbeat...just making a point!)
Now...on to a recipe...only because I am hungry, having not yet eaten today, though planning to have dinner out tonight with my son, whom I have not seen for 3 days...He works on the weekend, (soda jerk!), as I did, and it was the weekend he stays at his Dad's house...
I am craving a salad today, ( I adore salad), so I will post one of my favorites, from Ina Gartner, that is simple but so very delicious...I make this a lot....

Green Salad With Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette

Serves 6

3 TBSP. champagne vinegar
1/2 teasp. Dijon mustard
1/2 teasp. minced fresh garlic
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temp (See note below***)
3/4 teasp. kosher salt
1/4 teasp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil (this is where quality of olive oil is best appreciated)
Salad greens or mesclun mix for 6 people

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, egg yolk***, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
Toss the greens with enough dressing to moisten and serve immediately.

NOTE*** If you are worried about the raw egg, substitute 1 TBSP mayonnaise..I have done it, and it's great...I would use regular mayo for this
Also...When you are serving a salad like this for a group or a dinner party,(wow..do people even give these anymore?), you can put the vinaigrette in the bottom of a serving bowl and place the greens on top. This can sit for an hour or two until you are ready to toss and serve it...