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


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,


    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,


    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,

    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


    • 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,

    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

    • 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
    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,

    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,


    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:


    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.