Tuesday, September 30, 2008

LBJ Wore a Girdle

I haven't recently shared any of the books I've been reading, so I thought I'd take a little bit of time this evening to share an installment of The Greasy Bookshelf with you.

I've quit reading Master of the Senate: The Lyndon Johnson Years by Robert Caro, who has written three books on LBJ. The book is outstanding, but I'm growing tired of politics. LBJ's an intriguing figure, and I['m interested in his Senate accomplishments, especially his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. I could share insight into his political prowess, and there's plenty of dirt to dish on LBJ. However, this is a food blog, so I offer you this little tidbit. LBJ loved to eat, and he struggled to control his voracious appetite. When his waistline expanded, he wore a girdle to conceal his paunch.

This isn't bad idea. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Dressin' sharp, but feelin' dull,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cranberry-Upside-Down Coffee Cake

It's Sunday evening. Since I'm trying to enjoy every last drop of this beautiful weekend, I'll dispense with the words for this entry. I'll just give you the wonderful recipe for the coffee cake I prepared for breakfast this morning:

Cranberry-Upside-Down Coffee Cake

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened and divided
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon half and half
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare cake, coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tablespoon flour. Combine cranberries, walnuts, and rind in a bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, 2 tablespoons juice, and cinnamon; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour brown sugar mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle cranberry mixture evenly over brown sugar mixture.
  4. Lightly spoon 1 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to granulated sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter over cranberry mixture.
  5. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around outside edges. Invert cake onto a plate; cool.
  6. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over cake. Cut cake into squares.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mood Altering Thoughts

I listen to NPR's All Things Considered each day on my drive home from work. Lately the news has dragged me into a puddle of melancholy. I know I have the power to listen to something else, but I want to be an informed citizen. Since I continue to listen, I've developed the following plan to improve my mood and make myself impervious to the bad news.

When I hear each of the following words, I'll think of:

1. Recession = Barbecue
2. Wall Street = Oklahoma Joe's
3. Foreclosure = Cheese
4. Deficit = Pie
5. Ben Bernacki = Grace Kelly
6. Democrat = Butter
7. Republican = Bacon
8. Economic Stimulus = Farmers' Market
9. Sub-Prime Mortgage = Biscuits & Gravy
10. Government Bailout = Drunken noodles

That should do it.

Keep on the sunny side,

Monday, September 22, 2008

Brookville Hotel

My mother makes great fried chicken, so the idea of going to a restaurant for it always seemed foolish. However, there are a few restaurants out there that come close to meeting those lofty standards of my childhood. I like a restaurant where I can dine at a table family style.

I look for a restaurant that sincerely and warmly welcomes all guests.
I look for a restaurant where service is formal without being uppity.
It helps if the restaurant is a James Beard Award Winner.

Of course, the restaurant should have great tasting food that conjures memories of mothers, aunts, and grandmothers.

The Brookville Hotel in Abilene, Kansas, offers all of this and more.
If there's a restaurant that captures the spirit of Kansas, it's the Brookville Hotel in Abilene.

Pass the gravy,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pizza Bianca Alla Romana

Lately dinner at our house has been like a scene out of Sergio Leone western, minus the guns and the Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Night after night our daughter stubbornly refuses to eat one or two items on her plate, which leads to a standoff between her and her equally stubborn parents. Last night she refused to eat a biscuit.

My wife and I don't cave easily. I'm usually the good cop, and my wife plays the role of bad cop with a flair and swagger that would make Robert De Niro jealous. We firmly draw a line in the sand, we never back down, and regardless of how cute, intelligent, and charming our four-year-old daughter might be, we refuse to negotiate. We play hardball, so it's a tough world for a Miss Picky Eater. I should add that we always win.

I'm sure I'm exaggerating a bit. Our daughter eats and enjoys most fruits and vegetables. She's stubborn and picky when it comes to meats or new recipes, which is a real problem in a household where I'm constantly trying new dishes. Some of her "pickiness" is downright perplexing:

Exhibit A:

She's even picky when it comes to pizza, a perennial kid's favorite. However, she prefers her pizza sans sauce and with cheese as the only topping. Then she usually polish off her nubs of crust with a bit of honey. This is the only way she'll eat pizza.

Now this isn't a major problem in my household. I always have pizza dough on hand, and pizzas are made to suit the tastes of each family member.

However, I'm not always satisfied making one type of pizza, so this summer I tried another type of pizza dough to experiment with a slightly different crust. My daughter wasn't a fan, but this recipe was a hit with me. I love how this crusty is crunch while possessing a springy, light texture. This would be a great complement to your next pasta dinner.

Now the dough is an extremely wet, and there will be moments in the process where you'll question if everything will ever come together. Have faith. Everything will work out, and you'll be rewarded with a wonderful bread.

Pizza Bianca Alla Romana


  • 1 3/4 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached, bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

  1. Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, flour, and salt. Then stir to blend into a dough.
  2. With the dough hook, mix the dough on medium-high speed (8 on a KitchenAid Mixer) for 15 to 17 minutes. Since at this speed the mixer has a tendency to "shimmy" off the counter, be sure you supervise the mixer during this process. The dough won't clear the sides of the bowl and will gradually climb up the dough hook. Occasionally stop the mixer and scrape down the hook and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. You'll gradually see strands of beautiful gluten start to appear.
  3. After the first 15-17 minutes, turn the mixer to high speed and knead until the dough comes together, clears the sides of the bowl, and collects around the hook. This should take 2-3 minutes. The dough will be glistening and very elastic. At this point check the dough and make sure the gluten is developed by pulling off a golf ball-sized piece. Stretch it. If it tears, knead for 1-2 minutes more and test again. You should be able to stretch the dough into an opaque windowpane that doesn't tear.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. At room temperature let the dough rise until it triples in volume. This should take 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
  5. Before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
  6. Coat your counter or pastry mat with flour. Uncover the dough and scrape it onto the counter. Lightly but thoroughly dust the top of the dough with flour. With a bench scraper, cut the dough into two equal pieces. Drape with plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Now measure some parchment paper to fit the size of your baking stone. Spray the paper with cooking spray or lightly brush with oil. Place one of dough halves on the paper. Now gradually stretch your dough to fill the parchment paper. This takes a lot of patience and skill, two qualities I sometimes lack. I usually shape the dough by lightly stretching one corner of dough at a time. I stretch and stretch and stretch. This elastic dough will test your patience. Just take your time and take occasional, short breaks to let the dough rest. You'll gradually shape the dough.

8. Brush dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary.
9. Place the parchment and dough on a peel. Slide into the oven.
10. Bake for until 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
11. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cinnamon Bun Bread

With Autumn whispering passionate cinnamon-scented promises in my ear, I've been dreaming of snug quilts, simmering soups, and of course, cinnamon rolls. The problem with a cinnamon roll craving is that it takes time to make the rolls. Now I enjoy the process of making rolls, but sometimes I just want my craving satiated without any hassle.

Last week I stumbled upon a recipe at Baking Bites for Cinnamon Bun Bread. It's an easy recipe they adapted from a package of rapid rise yeast, and it's the perfect proxy for cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon Bun Bread



  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm milk (100-110F; low fat is fine)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk or cream


  1. Grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Dissolve the yeast in a measuring cup filled with the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.
  3. While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter and sugar mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and gently fold some of the mixture into the dough.
  4. Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350F.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the sugar mixture is bubbling.
  6. Cool for at least 30 minutes before whisking the powdered sugar and milk together to form an icing and drizzling it onto the bread.

(A picture of the bread before being drizzled with icing. The corners contain nuggets of caramelly goodness.)

Serve warm. Leftovers can be gently reheated in the microwave.

Serves 9.



Friday, September 12, 2008


In the fall, my wife and I are college football addicts. We even planned our wedding around the college football, specifically the University of Nebraska football schedule. My wife, who was born and raised in Nebraska by a college football obsessed mother, enables my addiction. During football season, we've contemplated placing tinfoil over our windows, wearing pajamas all day, and dining on whatever can be delivered to our front door, so we could focus solely on college football. After a brief discussion we decided that this might traumatize our daughter too much, but we decided it would be OK to wear our pajamas all day.

Opening weekend we watched over 16 hours of football. We sent my daughter to my parents that weekend, so she wouldn't see her parents in the grip of their addiction. Last weekend with our daughter at home, we scaled back our football to a mere 6 hours. Fortunately my wife and I didn't suffer tremors, night sweats, or hallucinations.

Tonight we've invited friends over to watch the University of Kansas battle the University of South Florida. I whipped up a batch of soft pretzels as a way to introduce our friends to our twisted college football addiction:


Ingredients: Makes 6 large pretzels

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
  • 2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. I start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it'll form a nice ball that I can knead by hand.
  2. Either use an electric mixer to mix the dough for 5 minutes or remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough begins to get smooth and satiny.
  3. Return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.

Before shaping, start preheating the oven to 425 degrees.


  1. Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.
  2. Shaping pretzels is simple, once you get a hang of it. Place a rope of dough on the work surface in front of you. Take each end in a hand, loop the dough away from you, and bring the ends back toward your stomach, crossing them about an inch above the rope.

  1. To give each pretzel a glossy sheen and a taste of soda, boil the pretzels in a mixture of 2/3 cups baking soda and water. Just simply boil each pretzel for about 10 seconds.
  2. Place each finished pretzel on a baking sheeting and brush with an egg white wash.
  3. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Place the pretzels in the preheated oven and bake until golden brown. This will take about 15 minutes.
  5. Enjoy.
take care,

PS. . . The University of South Florida is in Tampa, which isn't really in the southern portion of Florida. The people who named the university must be the same people who think Salina, Kansas, is in Western Kansas.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple Dumplings

If I had a mistress, her name would be Autumn Skye, and I'd meet her once a week at a cabin in the woods. Wearing comfortable flannel shirts, we spend our morning sitting on the front porch, where we'd watch the leaves fall and make a list of our favorite fall foods. In between sips of coffee and conversation about our favorite ways to prepare chili, she might suggest that I grow a beard because it would suit me. Then the rest of our day would be spent in bed reading cookbooks to each other. If we found a recipe for a hearty stew or soup,we might prepare it for a late lunch and serve it with good, crusty bread slathered with butter. Finally,we'd end our day with a fall inspired fresh-baked dessert like the following:

Apple Dumplings
(From Peace, Love, and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe)

  • 1 package of puff pastry
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 8-ounce package of cream cheese, cut into 8 equal pieces
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Cut each pastry sheet into 5-inch squares. Then place an apple wedge on each piece of puff pastry and top with a piece of cream cheese.
  3. Wrap the puff pastry sheet around the apple and cream cheese. Crimp the edges to seal, and place the dumplings in the baking dish.
  4. Bring the orange juice, butter, and 2/3 cup sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over the dumplings.
  5. Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Then sprinkle over the dumplings.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Normally the liquid will thicken into a delicious, orange-flavored caramel. If this doesn't happen, let everything cool a bit, remove the dumplings from the dish, and pour the liquid into a microwave-safe dish. If you microwave it for 2-3 minutes, It should thicken into a caramel. You could also do this in a sauce pan over medium-high heat.
  7. Serve and enjoy. Some decadent souls eat their dumplings topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Now I admit that there are probably better ways to make dumplings, but I like this recipe because it's quick, easy, and the perfect way to provide a tah-dah ending to a weeknight meal. The Pioneer Woman Cooks also has a convenient apple dumpling recipe that utilizes canned crescent rolls and a can of Mountain Dew. I'm eager to try it this fall. My favorite dumpling to eat might be the ones the United Methodist Church serves at the Apple Festival in Weston, Missouri.

faithfully yours,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Excuses are Like Armpits

Here's a multiple choice test:

1. I haven't updated my blog because . . .

A. I've been busy feeding my college football addiction.
B. I'm tired of photographing my food.
C. With the school year running full throttle, I'm trying to find balance in being a teacher, father, husband, blogger, and a sane individual.
D. All of the above.

Even though there's a noticable absence in my blog, I'm there in spirit. In my life, inspiration is often found in the ordinary, ideas are simmering, and food is still more than food.

Tomorrow I return with a new bread recipe.

take care,