Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beans for Breakfast

Earlier this week I ate red beans and rice baptized with a healthy dose of Tabasco for breakfast. I decided that this is the ultimate cold weather breakfast, and it's something might work into my regular breakfast routine.

However, as I happily ate my beans for breakfast, the following Johnny Cash lyrics echoed in my head:

"Beans for Breakfast"

I couldn't hear you for the TV, I didn't know you said goodbye
I saw your cancelled check for the airfare, didn't know flyin' got too high
Beans for breakfast once again, hard to eat 'em from the can.

I've run out of clean utensils, I'm a hungry nasty lonesome man
I heard the crows outside my window, guess it's me they're talkin' about
The fire you lit has burnt to cinders, every good things fizzled out
Beans for beakfast once again, hard to eat 'em from the can.

Wish you'd come back and wash the dishes, I'm a hungry nasty lonesome man
Caught a cold with the window open, crow droppings o my window sill
Probably got histoplasmosis, got no gun or I would kill them crows
Beans for breakfast once again, hard to eat 'em from the can.

Plastic forks are a dime a dozen I'm a hungry nasty lonesome man
Finally made it to the mailbox, felt so bad I thought I'd die
All I got was a bill from my doctor, well I guess flyin' ain't so high
Bean for breakfast once again, hard to eat 'em from the can.

Blue tick mattress cold and greasy, I'm a hungry nasty lonesome man
The house burned down from the fire that I built, in your closet by mistake
After I took all them pills, but I got out safe in my duck head overalls
Beans for breakfast once again, I'm a hungry nasty lonesome man.




I thought about how eating beans could be viewed as a desperate act and how food is more than food and how there will never be another Johnny Cash. Despite this, I still enjoyed eating my beans for breakfast.

What's your favorite unconventional breakfast?

don't build a fire in a closet by mistake,
muddy

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Twitter: I'm a Mannish Boy

I listened to some coffee guru on The Splendid Table speak about how easy it is to roast coffee beans at home and how it was the best way to prepare a pot of coffee and I thought this sounded like a great idea, so I was making plans to order green coffee beans and the appropriate equipment to roast them and then I thought about my wife's reaction when she came home one day to find me roasting coffee beans and I decided that I really liked being married, so I didn't order anything.

i'll do whatever the hell I like -- as long as it's ok with my wife,
muddy

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Banana Bread Pudding with Cane Syrup

For the past few months, I've been monitoring the calories I eat. Vanity isn't driving this lifestyle change; I just want to be healthier. When I crave something sweet I reach for a piece of fruit, and this has worked well for me. When I crave something sweeter, I've started preparing desserts from a cookbook titled Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. This cookbook has recipes for two-serving desserts, so instead of being faced with the temptation of a pan of brownies, I just eat my one-serving dessert to get my sugar fix, and then I can return to healthier option of eating fruits.

The recipes from this book also give me the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen without all the residual calories. I've tried a few recipes from the cookbook, and this one is my favorites:



Banana Bread Pudding with Cane Syrup


Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for ramekins
  • 2 tablespoons cane syrup
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups stale wheat bread cubes
  • whipped cream or vanilla or butter pecan ice cream for serving

Note: The original recipe called for twice as much cane syrup and sugar. It also called for cream, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, and white bread, but I lightened the recipe.


Preparation:

  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray two 1-cup ramekins with cooking spray. Pour 1 tablespoons of cane syrup into each ramekin, and place ramekins on a baking sheet. Set aside.

  • Peel the banana and slice one third of it. Arrange the banana slices on the syrup in the ramekins.

  • Cut the remaining two thirds of the banana into chunks and place them in a food processor. Add the egg, milk, brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium-size mixing bowl and stir in the bread cubes, pressing down on them to submerge them. Let the bread soak 5 minutes. If you want to add chopped nuts at this time, you may.

  • Spoon the mixture into the ramekins, diving it evenly. Bake until the puddings are firm and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Removing the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the ramekins to a wire rack, and let them cook for 10 minutes.

  • To serve, unmold the puddings: Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekins , and invert the puddings onto individual plates. Serve warm, with whipped cream or ice cream or caramel syrup or dusted with powder sugar or simply plain. Enjoy.

take care,

muddy

Gleaning

There's always something left to learn. I love this aspect of life. While I love seeking out knowledge, I probably savor the little bits of wisdom and knowledge that land in my lap when I need them most.

Thursday I stumbled upon the concept of gleaning while listening to a podcast of The Splendid Table. According to Wikipedia:

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.

According to the Holiness Code and the Deuteronomic Code of the Torah, farmers should leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and they should not attempt to harvest any left-overs that had been forgotten when they had harvested the majority of a field[1][2][3]. On one of the two occasions that this is mentioned by the Holiness Code, it adds that, in vineyards, some grapes should be left ungathered[4], an argument made also by the Deuteronomic Code[5]; the Deuteronomic Code additionally argues that olive trees should not be beaten on multiple occasions, and whatever remains from the first set of beatings should be left[6]. According to the Holiness Code, these things should be left for the poor and for strangers[4][2], while
the Deuteronomic Code argues instead that it should be left for widows, strangers, and for paternal orphans[3][6][5].

I like this notion of sharing the harvest. It's something I need to do more.

take care,
muddy



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mr. Crankypants, Taco Hell, and the Chicken Enchilada Grilled Stuft Burrito!!!

Mr. Crankypants is combustible, so we try to censor any stimuli that may cause him to flare up. For example, we've deleted FoxNews from our cable directory, we don't invite him to eat at Applebee's, and we never ever discuss politics in his presence. However, it's impossible to create a completely sterile environment for Mr. Crankypants. He's bound to encounter irritants in this crazy world.

For example, last weekend we were watching a little college football and commercials for the following Taco Bell product kept airing:

This sent Mr. Crankypants into a tailspin. He already refers to Taco Bell as Taco Hell, and now they were insisting on butchering the English language by referred to something as STUFT and they were pushing a product that makes no sense at all: Chicken Enchilada Grilled Stuft Burrito! Each time the comercial aired, he twitched and mumbled something about the corporate bastards ruining America.

To soothe Mr. Crankypants I poured him a whiskey and cola, and then I made him watch the following SNL Taco Bell parody.

Mr. Crankypants laughed so hard that he snorted whiskey out his nose. I guess, laughter is the best medicine.

support your local Mexican restaurant,

muddy

Feelin' Cheesy

We have a dictionary in almost every room in our house because I never know when the need or urge to look up a definition will strike. You would think that having dictionaries this accessible would make me more articulate or at least a great Scrabble player, but unfortunately is does nothing but feed my curiosity and make me a bit odd.

I'm especially intrigued by the birth and evolution of words. When I read about a word evolving and taking on a new meaning, my ears perk up. This was the case this weekend as I read Eric LeMay's book Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese. In that book, Mr. LeMay ponders the following question:
Why has cheese come to signify all that's sappy, campy, tacky, corny, kitschy, vulgar, lame, stupid, fake, overdone, cliche ridden, and sentimental in American culture? What's wrong with "corny" or "soupy"? Why did cheese have to be sacrificed on the food-as-adjective altar? It's not fair.

Mr. LeMay spends an entire chapter exploring these questions, and I was riveted. Mr. LeMay cited that the first printed occurrence of "cheese" used in the above connotation occurred in a screenplay for a 1943 comedy titled Hail the Conquering Hero in the following line: "Of all the cheezy songs I ever heard that one certainly takes the crackers." Mr. LeMay then shares some historical background:

The answer might lie not in what cheese is, but in what cheese was. In 1943, the year Americans started saying "cheesy," World War II was on. Food was rationed, and the cheese that people were eating wasn't artisanal and organic. I t was industry. It was Kraft. In 1943, you could trade one rationing coupon for two boxes of Kraft macaroni and Cheese Diner, and Americans at home at about 80 million boxes that included orangey powder labeled "cheese.

American soldiers had it worse. The K-ration that they ate for lunch contained biscuits, sugar, salt tablets, cigarettes, gun, and a "cheese product" that could patch holes in airplanes.
Mr. LeMay goes on to share an account of a crew who patched bullet holes in their B-29 during a WWII bombing raid, and then he gives readers his explanation of how "cheesy" possibly evolved to mean something trite and schmaltzy:

Cheese wasn't cheese as we now know it when Americans started saying "cheesy." It was a fake, a substitute, not only for meat but for metal. Is it any wonder that it became slang for other fakes, other substitutes? You might call cheesiness an "emotion product." The label on it says "happiness" or "love," but when you experience it, it feels powdery, rubbery, not quite real.

I don't know if he's right, but I find all of this intriguing. And it makes me crave a grilled cheese sandwich.

oddly yours,

muddy




Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brussels Sprouts Hash

I believe that roasting is the best way to prepare most vegetables. Toss almost any vegetable with a little olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and place them in a 425-degree-or-so oven. Flavors and sugars will emerge that will make you believe that your oven is capable of granting culinary wishes.


Lately, we've been roasting a lot of broccoli, which is a nice change from the steamed version that normally graces our dinner table. Invite some Parmesan to the roasting party, and then you're crossing into gourmet territory. However, this post isn't about roasting.

I normally roast Brussels sprouts, but last night I expanded my vegetable repertoire by preparing the following recipe:


Brussels Sprouts Hash


Ingredients:

1 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces smoked ham, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Preparation:

    1. Trim root ends from Brussels sprouts. Using sharp knife or processor fitted with coarse shredding disk, thinly slice Brussels sprouts into shreds. I would use a knife. When I used the food processor, it grated my Brussels sprouts too finely. Is it just me, or are food processors overrated? DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
    2. Melt butter with olive oil in large deep skillet over medium heat. Add ham; sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds.
    3. Add Brussels sprouts and broth; sauté until crisp-tender but still bright green, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with coarse salt and black pepper. Transfer to serving bowl.

    Here's what I learned from preparing this recipe:

    1. For almost 40 years, I've been leaving the "s" off of Brussels. I've been saying "Brussel" sprouts, and it should be Brussels.
    2. The "B" in Brussels should always be capitalized. Again, it took me 40 years to learn this.
    3. This recipe rocks. Not only is it a quick way to cook Brussels sprouts, but it's a good base recipe for improvisation. If you don't have ham, you could use bacon or you could you toss in some leftover pulled pork. Heck, you could leave the meat out completely. There's room to add other vegetables. I could see julienned carrots or peppers in this recipe.

    What improvisations would you make to this recipe?

    there's always something left to learn,

    muddy

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Rage Against the Grind

    "You only get one shot.
    Do not miss your chance to blow.
    This opportunity comes once in a lifetime."

    ***"Lose Yourself" by Eminem

    When I started this blog I intended to post daily. Of course, life and laziness and a multitude of playful diversions altered my good intentions. Anyone who blogs knows how challenging it can be to post on a regular basis. This weekend I deleted bookmarks of food blogs I used to read, and when I browsed them one last time, I noticed that almost 95 percent of them were defunct. A lot of people storm out of the blogging gate with lofty intentions, but most are shot down with the reality that blogging regularly is a grind.

    With the year waning, I've decided to rage against the grind. What inspired me to rage against the grind? Jay-Z. Yes, you heard correctly. Jay-Z. I read the following excerpt from his autobiography where he talks about his early passion to put pen to paper:

    “Everywhere I went I’d write. If I was crossing a street with my friends and a rhyme came to me, I’d break out my binder, spread it on a mailbox or lamppost and write the rhyme before I crossed the street. If I didn't have notebook with me, I’d run to the corner store, buy something, then find a pen to write it on the back of the brown paper bag.”

    I admire this. I'm not a fan of rap, but I've always admired how rappers are ambassadors of the written word. Most rappers are prolific and they don't get trapped in the snare of literary snootiness.

    With Jay-Z's inspiration, I've decided to cut loose and post daily. I'm not going to worry about filtering or polishing. I'm just going to write. I know that I'll sift through a lot of silt and muck, but I'm hoping to acquire a few flecks of gold in this experiment.

    keeping it real,

    muddy


    PS. . . The following passage at the end of the book, blew me away and demonstrates the power of the written word. I also like the idea of individuals creating their own culture when the one they're given doesn't suit them.

    “We were kids without fathers, so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history, and in a way, that was a gift. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves. That was part of the ethos of that time and place, and it got built in to the culture we created. Rap took the remnants of a dying society and created something new. Our fathers were gone, usually because they just bounced, but we took their old records and used them to build something fresh.”

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    In Praise of Small Gifts

    I'm blessed to have exchange students from Russia and Germany in my classroom. Both are intelligent, talented, personable, and have a lust for life. Needless to say, they make our school a better place, and they're constantly inspiring me.

    These students are probably growing tired of me asking questions about the food of their countries. However, they patiently answer my culinary questions.

    Last week the student from Germany received a care package from home, and the student gave me this:


    A gift like this isn't received lightly. It meant a lot to me that this girl who is over 4,500 miles from home and who probably craved the tastes of home unselfishly offered me one of her chocolate bars.

    I took the chocolate bar home and shared with my family because a gift like this should always be shared. Plus food tastes better when it's shared. After tasting the chocolate bar we agreed that it was better than a Hershey bar. The Milka bar was creamier than it's American counterparts.

    This experience reminded me that a small gift can make an individual's day, so during the next few days I will bestow small gifts to unsuspecting individuals. I'll be like a much smaller scale Oprah. In future posts, I will document this little social experiment.

    take care,
    muddy

    PS . . . I plan on posting an interview with each of the exchange students. Look for it in the near future.









    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Ham & Beans or Ham & Bean Soup

    A marriage is a culinary union. I've even proposed that wedding vows acknowledged this in order to help preserve the marriage when taste buds clash. Sometimes that union offers a stark contrast, like the vegetarian Jew who marries the Southern Bubba. However, often often the subtle differences stir up minor arguments over questions like: How many beans go into a pot of chili? What bourbon should take center stage in the liquor cabinet? Do raisins belong on cookies? What is the ideal ratio for the perfect margarita?


    In our household culinary harmony usually exists, but the occasional disagreement surfaces.

    Exhibit A:

    Early in our marriage, I casually mentioned that I was hungry for ham and beans. Since my wife is a kind soul, she fixed me ham and beans for supper. However, when she set the bowl in front of me, I could see my disappointed reflection in the broth.

    "What is this?" I asked.

    "Ham and Bean soup," replied my wife.

    I trolled my spoon through the bowl, attempting to find a bean, "Where are the beans?"

    "I let the soup boil too long and they disintegrated," she said.

    "Oh," I said.

    Then I politely explained my disappointment. I told her about the ham and beans of my youth, a dish that was more a stew than a soup. My ham and beans consisted of more beans than broth and was a hearty affair. Spending my evening looking for a single bean in a bowl of ham and bean soup was more of a dainty affair. I prefer hearty.

    Since that moment, I've learned to do dainty, and I enjoy my wife's ham and bean soup. It's something I look forward to this time of year. I'm OK waving the white flag with this culinary battle, but I refuse to give up any ground when it comes to boiled summer sausage.



    Ham and Bean Soup

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup dry 15 navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed (If you want to use canned beans, that would be fine.)
    • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked ham
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 cup sliced celery
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 can of diced tomatoes
    • 4 cups water
    • 1 bay leaf

    1. Rinse beans. In a 4-quart Dutch oven combine beans and 4 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or, place beans in water in Dutch oven. Cover and let soak in a cool place for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.) Drain and rinse beans; set aside.

    2. Add beans, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, celery, onions, tomatoes, and 4 cups fresh water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Discard bones and bay leaf. Slightly mash beans in saucepan (I, however, would never mash my beans.)

    3. Stir in chopped meat; heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    pass the Beano,
    muddy

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Apple Walnut Bundt Cake

    Today is National Bundt Day. Normally I would overlook this day, but since my wife has baked a bundt a month for the past year, this date has been circled on my calendar.

    I'm proud to say that my wife has possessed the discipline of a marathon runner as she pursued her goal to bake a bundt a month.

    This year I've enjoyed a variety of bundts. The following is a Butterfinger bundt:



    In March, we enjoyed a Bailey's Irish Cream bundt.
    However, my favorite was October's apple walnut bundt. This bundt encapsulates fall. With a single bite you'll rummage your closet for your favorite flannel shirt. You'll decide to grow a beard. You'll contemplate quitting your job, so you can roam the country planting apple seeds. This cake has that power. I think, it's the combination of the apples and mace or it just might be the culinary mojo my wife injects into the cake. Who knows? All you need to know is this: Do yourself a favor, and make this cake while apples are in season.

    Apple Walnut Bundt Cake

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup butter
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
    • 3 cups peeled & chopped apples
    • 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
    Preparation:
    1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
    2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
    3. In a separate bowl, mix and sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and mace; add gradually and mix.
    4. Stir in apples and walnuts. The batter will be quite stiff.
    5. Spoon into a greased and floured bundt pan.
    6. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.
    7. Let cool, remove from pan, and enjoy.
    all you need is love,
    muddy

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Little Miss Pickyeater: The Good, the Bad, and the Chili

    In previous posts, I've documented my frustration with my daughter's finicky nature at the dinner time. Things have improved, but occassionally Little Miss Pickyeater appears.
    When this happens we have the following rules in place to handle her:
    1. If we serve something new, she has to try it. In the past week, she's tried a butternut squash gratin and fried polenta. She didn't like either, and even though I don't feel like she tasted these things with a open taste buds, I'm fine with this. At least she's trying something new. I'm not going to dictate taste to her; instead, we'll reserve dictatorship for mandating proper nutrition.


    2. When we have meal we know she likes, she has to finish everything on her plate, or she doesn't get anything to eat until the next meal. No snack or dessert for Little Miss Pickyeater.
    We consistently apply these rules without getting angry or upset with her. There's no point in letting our emotions ruin dinner. Unfortunately, this doesn't always keep her from heading into an emotional tailspin.

    Last week we served chili, and even though Little Miss Pickyeater likes chili, she refused to finish her bowl. In the end, she was denied dessert, which prompted tears and a retreat to her bedroom.

    Later that evening, I found this on her little writing desk.

    It's a picture of a steaming bowl of chili, and I'll translate the writing for you: I do not like chili. It tastes gross. It is so disgusting. Yuck!

    I'm proud of her. She dealt with her frustration and anger by putting pen to paper, which is a healthy way to cope.

    She might even follow in my footsteps and become a food blogger.


    eat your veggies,

    muddy



    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Entertaining MInus Bacon, Beer, and Beans

    While I'm somewhat skilled in the kitchen, I'm not the best at cooking for guests. I can't really be counted on to plan a balanced menu. I rely too much on the 3 B's: bacon, beer, and beans, These ingredients are fine fare for ruffians, bushwhackers, and secondary characters in a Clint Eastwood western, but these primordial ingredients aren't always suitable for company. When we entertain, I often hand the reins over to my wife who is a fine cook and quite crafty. The following are snapshots of some of her work from a small Halloween party we hosted:











    boo,
    muddy

    PS. . . There was a little beer at the party and beans in the chili. You can't really entertain without at least one of the three B's.

    I'd expand the three b's to the five b's: bacon, beer, beans, bbq, and bourbon.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Biscuits and Gravy at Wheatfields

    I've been teaching at my current school for 14 years now, so I possess the comfort that comes with knowing the rituals, routines, and rhythms of a place. Every Thursday the cafeteria serves biscuits and gravy. When I was younger, I looked forward to my weekly biscuit and gravy fix.

    Because I like to fit comfortably into my pants and because my principal frowns upon mid-morning naps, I rarely eat biscuits and gravy at school. Someday I will have a career that demands hearty breakfasts, and every morning I'll eat biscuits & gravy, hash browns, eggs, and chicken fried steak. Until then I'll try to stay away from the gravy.

    For now it's a once-in-awhile treat, and when I want to treat myself to biscuits and gravy, I head to Wheatfields.


    The gravy takes center stage in their version of this American classic. It's a meaty gravy that is generously seasoned with a blend of spices that gives it an addictive quality. In a future post, I will attempt to break down the spices, but I need a little time and help. It's the most elaborately seasoned gravy I've ever had.


    They might be the best biscuits and gravy I've ever eaten, and that's saying a lot because I've eaten a lot of biscuits and gravy. Where have you found the best biscuits and gravy


    may you have a little gravy in your day,




    muddy

    PS. . . I only ate a half order of biscuits and gravy, which cost me $4.09 with tax included. I've never consumed a whole order, but if I did, I imagine that I would like this.



    Friday, October 22, 2010

    The Bottleneck Mural

    The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.

    ***Dorthea Lange

    I use a simple point-and-shoot camera for this blog. I'm no photographer, and right now I have no desire to improve my photography skills.

    I like taking pictures. I could easily spend an hour a day taking pictures. While I'm not a photographer, I consider myself a documenter. Someday I'm going to place a capital "D" on this title.

    I'm very aware that nothing lasts, which is the main reason I'm a documenter. I'm also a documenter because I derive great joy in seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. I like documenting stuff that brings me joy.

    For this post, you'd expect some breathtaking photographs to illustrate this point, but I've got nothing. Remember, I'm not a photographer; I'm a documenter.

    I snapped these pictures a year ago at a show at The Bottleneck, the legendary Lawrence, Kansas, music venue. It's dark inside The Bottleneck, so it's difficult to take good pictures. However, I didn't let this stop me from taking pictures of the following mural:






    It's a very unpolished mural, and while it still might not satisfy most art lovers, I still like it. If you've ever been to The Bottleneck, you know that this is the perfect location for this mural.

    I need to do more exploring and documenting of folk art like they're doing over at Deep Fried Kudzu.


    trampin' a perpetual journey,
    muddy


    PS . . . Writing about art makes me think of the following great song by Terry Allen:




    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Mr. Crankypants: BBQ Beer

    I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won't let himself get snotty about it.

    ~Raymond Chandler

    The other day I'm kicked back reading Mr. Chandler's The Big Sleep, and muddywaters comes home from the liquor store with a wet-dream grin on his face. This worried me. When muddy visits the liquor store, he usually answers the Sirens' call of those corporate marketing bastards, and he returns with some fruit-infused beverage.

    I told him to wipe that grin off his face. I explained how I survived the Great Wine Cooler Scare of the 1980's, and I don't care to revisit that estrogen ash heap. He told me that I was being a jerk and a bit sexist, so I told him to quit acting like a pussy.

    Normally muddy would go upstairs to pout and read some Jane Fucking Austen, but he held his ground this time. He then started telling me that he had something that would put hair on my chest. Then he pulled this out of his bag:muddy beamed and pointed to the beer like he was Vanna Fucking White.

    I mellowed and attempted to comprehend the scene playing out before me.

    I like the smokey taste of BBQ brisket washed down with a Shiner Bock, one of my favorite beers. I also like Guinness, which has a smokey taste. Could it be possible that after all these years, muddy knows me better than anyone?

    Rather than contemplate the possibility that muddy and I were becoming one, I grabbed a cold Shiner, The Big Sleep, and headed to my hammock. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Mr. Chandler and thinking about girls with smiles that I could feel in my hip pocket.

    I'd like to buy a vowel,
    Mr. Crankypants

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Globe

    Globe is home to one structure, a stained glass shop. I'm not crazy about stained glass, but after browsing the shop's website, I'd like visit it when it's open. I would like a stained glass collage of my favorite foods or the Kansas state seal.

    When I was in high school, Globe was home to a small gas station, and it was rumored that underage drinkers could purchase beer there. I lacked the courage to test this rumor. Considering that I was carded well into my late 20's, this was a wise decision.

    Just northeast of Globe is an Atlas Missile silo, a relic from the Cold War Era. In 1983 the ABC movie The Day After and a Nostradamus documentary on PBS filled my head with impending nuclear doom. This rattled me so much that I started losing sleep. Looking back, I was just an anxious kid who often worried about things beyond my control.

    To ease my mind, I wrote Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum expressing my anxiety about being a push of a button away from a nuclear holocaust. Composing this letter taught me that writing can be cathartic.

    Shortly after I received a letter from her office that put my mind at ease. If I can find the letter, I'll share it in a future blog post.

    North of Globe across the 56 Highway, there used to be a bait shop, but it's closed. I don't fish, but I think, the world needs more bait shops. Cold beer at a reasonable price is a good thing.

    East of Globe is a home constructed out of rail cars. I'd rather live in a grain silo or a barn.


    They recently moved the depot from Welda, Kansas.

    I'm eager to see what they'll do with it.

    i hear that train a comin',

    muddy

    PS. . . The picture of the truck makes me want to buy a Red Sovine album. I have a 2cd compilation of trucker songs I need to place on my Ipod.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Stoysich's House of Sausage

    With apologies to bacon, I've decided that sausage is my favorite meat.

    I crowned sausage the King of Meats on a recent trip to Omaha, where I visited the Stoysich House of Sausage. House of Sausage! With almost 40 varieties of sausage, I showed tremendous amount of will power and only purchased two kinds, a Portuguse linguica and a Polish chicken sausage.
    The House of Sausage is north of the Immaculate Conception Church. I'm sure a wittier man could crack a joke about the proximity of the two, but I'm not that man.

    They also sell European beers and homemade kraut. It's one-stop shopping for Octoberfest.

    always travel with a cooler,

    muddy

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Rice Dressing with Dried Fruits

    Three years ago, I didn't like mixing savory with sweet. My Kansas stomach liked my food straightforward and uncomplicated. Now I'm at a stage in my cooking where I'm intrigued with how flavors play off of each other, so I'm more willing to try a recipe like the following:



    Rice Dressing with Dried Fruits

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup mixed wild and white rice (I like the RiceSelect Royal Blend)
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3/4 cup dried apricots, quartered
    • 2 -4 tablespoons butter (I went light on the butter)
    • 2 large ribs celery, diced
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
    • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
    • 1/2 cup minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • freshly ground pepper


    Preparation:

    • Begin by heating the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, stir in the rice. Cook until fragrant. Add the stock and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the burner to low, cover the rice, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner and allow the rice to sit with the lid on for another 15 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
    • Place the dried apricots in a small bowl, add hot water to cover, and allow to plump for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
    • In a skillet, melt two 2 tablespoons of butter. Swirl to coat the pan, add the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, and parsley, and saute for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat.
    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the rice is cooked, stir in the vegetable mixture. Add plumped apricots, and dried cranberries. stir to combine. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    • Lightly grease a casserole dish. Spoon the rice mixture into the prepare pan and cover. Bake the rice until heated through, about 20 minutes.


    We served this with some grilled pork chops and roasted broccoli. I loved this recipe. It's a beautiful autumn dish accented with the earthy scent of sage. The rest of the family didn't care for fruit in their savory rice, so the next time I prepare it I'll omit the fruit. Perhaps, I'll serve the fruit on the side, so I can mix it into my rice.

    may the wind always be at your back,

    muddy

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Aztec Couscous Salad

    I gravitate towards the unglamorous.

    Exhibit A:
    • I dream about driving across North Dakota. I might be the only person in America who has this on his bucket list.
    Exhibit B:

    • If I had a choice between being Paul Giamatti or Brad Pitt, I would be Mr. Giamatti. I'd rather be talented, versatile, and artful than have my picture taped in the lockers of high school girls. Mr. Pitt is talented and an artist, but he has to deal with the baggage of being glamorous.
    Exhibit C:
    • I like my coffee black.
    My cooking lately has been very unglamorous.

    I've been cooking a lot with whole grains, the Paul Giamatti of American cuisine. I'm cooking with whole grains to add another healthy element to my cooking, but I'm also doing it because it's fun. I like getting outside my comfort zone and learning something new. When I stand in front of the bulk grain bins at my local market, I experience the same giddiness I feel at a library or at the start of a road trip. There's great energy in the possibilities.

    Today I'm sharing a recipe that provided me with a safe, tasty introduction to cooking with whole grains. It's a recipe from Whole Grains for Busy People by Laura Sass.


    Aztec Couscous Salad

    (Would the Aztecs eat couscous? WWAE? What would Aztecs eat? )


    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup frozen corn
    • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
    • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 3 tablespoon lime juice

    Preparation:

    1. Defrost the corn, and then slightly heat it in the microwave oven.

    2. Place the couscous in a heavy saucepan. Use a wooden spoon to stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Continue stirring until the couscous are thoroughly coated with oil. Add the salt, cumin, garlic and corn.

    3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups boiling water into the couscous. Cover and let sit off heat for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

    4. While the couscous is steeping, combine the beans, green onions, cilantro, roasted red pepper, and jalapeno in a large bowl. Toss he couscous mixture, the remaining olive oil, and lime juice. Season with salt, if needed.

    "unglamorously" yours,
    muddy


    PS. . . Despite my allegiance to the unglamorous, it would be cool to be Johnny Depp.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Quinoa Pilaf with Apples and Pecans

    In a recent photo shoot for a quinoa and apple pilaf, Quinoa grew surly. When I requested a different poise, Quinoa screamed, "Do you know who I am? I'm Quinoa. The Incas revered me. Nutritionist say I'm the perfect food because of my nutritional balance. I am often referred to as a Super Grain.I've been around for 6,000 years, and I'll be here long after you're gone. I don't need this! Suck it!"


    Quinoa stormed out of the my photo studio, leaving me with no pictures for this post. Despite quinoa's uppity attitude, I still like the flavor and texture of this grain. However, I might be better off working with some local grains, which like most Kansans are humble, good-natured, and unassuming. I could see a few of those grains being a good replacement for Quinoa in this recipe.

    The apple flavor of this dish intensified day #2, and it's great cold for breakfast.

    Quinoa Pilaf with Apples and Pecans

    Ingredients:
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
    • 1 onion, minced
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained (Rinsing is essential to remove the bitter exterior coating of quinoa)
    • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    • pepper
    Preparation:
    1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the apple, onion, sugar, thyme, and a dash of salt. Cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa, and cook until it is just beginning to turn golden, about 4 minutes.
    2. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the quinoa is tender with a slight crunch, about 15 minutes.
    3. Remove the cover from the saucepan and continue to cook the quinoa until the remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, let the pilaf stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir in the the pecans and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way,
    muddy

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Wheatfield's Pretzel Rolls

    I love Wheatfield's Bakery. I'm very stingy with my dining dollars, but I never regret spending my hard-earned cash at Wheatfield's. If you're planning a foodie tour of Lawrence, Kansas, it's an essential stop. I've been eating their baked goods since they opened in 1995, but recently I discovered one item on their menu that flew under my gastronomic radar.

    Every Friday, they bake pretzel rolls. You have to get there early because they're usually gone by 2:00 or so.

    At $1.25 per roll, they're a little overpriced, but a pretzel junkie like myself is willing to ocasionally indulge.
    They're light, fluffy rolls. Of course, they go well with some beer.

    The next time you're in Lawrence on a Friday swing by Wheatfield's and pick yourself up an afternoon snack.

    these pretzels are making me thirsty,

    muddy

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    House Band: Mumford & Sons

    Once upon a time, the mullet was king, every boy desired a muscle car, and rock 'n' roll meant well, but it couldn't help telling young boys lies***. During this fabled age these lies were delivered via cassette tapes. Today in my digital haze I have trouble remembering this period of my life, but I do remember Def Leppard's album Pyromania booming from my cheap Sparkomatic speakers. I recall playing that tape so much that it began to warp and the music eventually warbled like an eunuch instead of booming with a testosterone.

    Today I have a sensible haircut, I drive a minivan, and I don't believe those rock 'n' roll lies. I still love music though, and if I find an album I enjoy, I play the hell out of it. This summer I knew my listening habits were entering obsessive territory with the band Mumford & Sons when I heard my daughter groan and ask, "Could we please listen to something else?"


    At that moment I played my daughter some Johnny Cash, and I decided that Mumford & Sons would be my next house band.

    After some research, I found that this English band was a perfect fit for The Greasy Skillet. One member occasionally blogs about food. Another posts photographs from the road on a blog. And another member hosts a book club on his blog. In future posts, I hope to share my love of Mumford and Sons with you and few recipes inspired by their music. For now, enjoy the band's acoustic performance in a book shop:



    cheers,
    muddy

    ***"Rock 'n' roll means well, but it can't help telling young boys lies" is a great line from the song "Marry Me" by the Drive-By Truckers.


    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Rock Chalk Backgammon

    Perpetual Joy: Where I blog about things that amuse me, tickle me, or generally make me feel good, and you scratch your head.

    Two weeks ago I attended the KU-North Dakota State football game, where I painfully watched Kansas lose 6-3.

    At one point I found it more interesting to survey the crowd than to watch the game, and I observed the following:
    This couple busted out the ol' backgammon board and decided to play.

    This past week the Jayhawks defeated the #15-ranked Georgia Tech in a well-played game; thus banishing any thoughts of me toting a Scrabble board to future KU games.

    However, the thought of the couple playing backgammon still makes me happy.

    With pictures of graveside peanuts, and backgammon-playing football fans, you might think I'm staging the photos, but I guarantee all is real. It's my nature to keep my eyes peeled for the strange and unusual, and if you do the same, you too can tramp in perpetual joy.

    truth is stranger than fiction,
    muddy

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Unincorporated: Worden


    The boy loved maps. He liked to glide his finger along a map. He'd whisper the names along the paths he traced. Nacogdoches. Coushata. Natchez. Picayune. Alabaster. The words were magical incantations that could transform dreams into reality.

    As a young man he bought a map, threw it in his car, and began highlighting all the roads he traveled.
    He's no longer young, but he still possess an enthusiasm for maps and places.

    Now he's decided to document the places that aren't destinations for most. Today he's starting with Worden, Kansas.





    imitation is suicide,
    muddy

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Bacon & Cashew Caramel Popcorn

    For a brief time in the 1990's, I lived in a cave with a slab of bacon as my only companion. I'd caress that slab of bacon and call it My Precious. It was a bleak period in my life, but that's the dark power bacon holds over me.

    Occasionally, I find a recipe using bacon that plunges me into the murky depths of a culinary Mordor, and I wonder if I'll be able to return home. This was the case with the following recipe from Bon Appetit:

    Bacon and Cashew Caramel Popcorn

    Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

  • Preparation:
    1. Heat popcorn and oil in covered heavy large pot over medium-high heat until kernels begin to pop. Using oven mitts, hold lid on pot and shake pot until popping stops. Pour popcorn into very large bowl.
    2. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until almost crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain; cool. Add bacon and cashews to bowl with popcorn. Sprinkle with coarse salt and cayenne; toss to coat.
    3. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; coat with nonstick spray. Coat 2 wooden spoons or heat-resistant spatulas with nonstick spray; set aside.
    4. Stir sugar, 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 13 minutes.
    5. Remove from heat and immediately add cream (mixture will bubble up). Stir until blended. Immediately drizzle caramel over popcorn mixture; toss with sprayed spoons until evenly coated. Transfer to sheet.
    6. Place caramel corn in oven and bake at 250 degrees until caramel is shiny and coats popcorn, tossing mixture occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on sheet on rack, tossing occasionally to break up large clumps. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in refrigerator.
    (Bacon, the star of this production)

    I adapted this recipe slightly. It called for me to steep an oolong teabag in the cream, but I didn't have this tea in my pantry. This recipe rocks without the oolong, but I'm curious about what flavor the tea would add.

    Salty. Sweet. Smokey. Spicey. I must find a slab of bacon and crawl back into my cave.

    all that is gold does not glitter,
    muddy

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Twain's Feast

    I'm currently reading Twain's Feast: Searching for American's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs. I'm enjoying this book, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in American food, traveling, Mr. Twain, history, cooking, and the ecology our food. The focal point of the book is Twain's love of food, specifically the foods he longed for on the tail end of a European trip. These cravings compelled him to compose the following list of American foods of he wanted to eat when he returned home:

    • Radishes
    • Baked apples with cream
    • Fried oysters
    • Frogs
    • American coffee, with real cream
    • American butter
    • Fried Chicken, Southern style
    • Porter-house steak
    • Saratoga potatoes
    • Broiled chicken, American style
    • Hot biscuits, southern style
    • Hot wheat-bread, Southern style
    • Hot buckwheat cakes
    • American toast
    • Clear maple syrup
    • Virginia bacon, broiled
    • Blue points, on the half shell
    • Cherry-stone clams
    • San Francisco mussels, steamed
    • Oyster soup
    • Clam soup
    • Philadelphia Terrapin soup
    • Bacon and greens, Southern style
    • Hominy
    • Boiled onions
    • Turnips
    • Pumpkin
    • Squash
    • Asparagus
    • Butter beans
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Succotash
    • String beans
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Catsup
    • Boiled potatoes, in their skins
    • New potatoes, minus the skins
    • early rose potatoes, roasted in the ashes, Southern style, served hot
    • Slice tomatoes, with sugar or vinegar
    • Stewed tomatoes
    • Green corn, cut from the ear and served with butter and pepper
    • Oysters roasted in shell - Northern style
    • Soft-shell crabs
    • Connecticut shad
    • Baltimore perch
    • Brook trout, from Sierra Nevadas
    • Lake trout, from Tahoe
    • Sheep-head and croakers, from New Orleans
    • Black bass from the Mississippi
    • American roast beef
    • Roast turkey, Thanksgiving style
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Celery
    • Roast wild turkey
    • Woodcock
    • Canvas-back-duck from Baltimore
    • Prairie-hens from Illinois
    • Missouri partridges, broiled
    • 'Possum
    • Coon
    • Boston bacon and beans
    • Green corn, on the ear
    • Hot corn-pone, with chitlins, Southern style
    • Hot hoe-cake, Southern style
    • Hot egg-bread, Southern style
    • Hot light -bread, Southern style
    • Buttermilk
    • Iced sweet milk
    • Apple dumplings, with real cream
    • Apple pie
    • Apple fritters
    • Apple puffs, Southern style
    • Peach cobbler, Southern style
    • Peach pie
    • American mince pie
    • Pumpkin pie
    • Squash pie
    • All sorts of American pastry

    I photocopied the list, and now I'm carrying it around as a compass for my belly. I'm still digesting the list, but I'm interested in hearing what you think.

    What are your favorite things on this list? What would you add to Mr. Twain's list?

    keep your skillet good and greasy,

    muddy

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Mama Lou: American Strong Woman

    Strong women turn me on. I trace this back to the lovely Lynda Carter and her portrayal of Wonder Woman.
    However, Freud might throw around terms like Oedipal when describing my love of strong women, but we won't go there because that just would be disturbing.

    Last night I pursued my fascination with strong women by attending American Strong Woman Mama Lou's performance at the Lawrence Busker Festival. She swaggered into Lawrence armed with a wink and a bag of tricks.
    She strapped on her gloves.
    She effortlessly performed a series of one-armed pull ups. She crushed an apple with her bicep.

    She lifted two bags of potatoes with her tongue.
    She rolled up a skillet with her lovely bare hands.
    She broke chopsticks with her butt.

    Are you impressed?

    And for her finale, she ripped a Kansas City phonebook in half.
    I left wowed and slightly in love. This whimsical guy will be seeking therapy.


    keeping it weird in Lawrence,
    muddywaters