Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beer and Peaches Mingle

Last week while at the library I sat next to a man who wore fishing waders and laughed periodically as he read the latest issue of Scientific American. Also seated next to me was a man who was dressed like he was a Game of Thrones extra. Occurences like this are common in Lawrence, KS., and it's one of the many things I love about this town.

I've never told anyone this before, but I feel a certain kinship with such folk. I know I'm only a few steps away from being the guy in the library who wears a chef's apron while reading back issues of Bon Appetit and singing Woody Guthrie songs in a French accent. I'm a fragile soul whose mental health sometimes hangs by a thread. Fortunately, I have a lot of touchstones that keep me grounded and mentally healthy. Writing this blog is one of those touchstones. For the past six months or so, I've been debating whether writing a blog - especially a food blog - is worthwhile. I admit that writing a blog is a silly, ridiculous, frivolous, and a priviledged activity, but it keeps me from living inside my head too much and it's helped me find some kindred spirits. So I guess I'll just keep writing this blog.


This spring I loaned a copy Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams by Jeni Bauer to six people, and all six promptly ran out and purchased their own copies. This is the best cookbook I've purchased in two years, and you need to clear off a space on your cookbook shelf for your own copy. I've shared her recipe for Coffee Ice Cream on this blog, and the book's also contains some wonderful sorbet recipes, like the following that uses a lambic beer. I knew nothing about lambic beers before I encountered this recipe, and I still don't know a lot about these beers, but all you need to know is that it's a slightly fruity beer. I used a lambic brew my Lindeman's; however, I think, there are better lambics out there. I think New Belgium brews a lambic as part of their Lips of Faith series. I think it would be worth checking out. Anyway, here's the recipe:


Peach Lambic Sorbet

  • 1 pound fresh peaches
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup lambic beer, chilled
  1. Peel and pit peaches. Puree fruit in food processor until smooth.
  2. Combine the pureed fruit, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan an bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and chill in the mixture in a refrigerator for two hours.
  3. Add beer to fruit mixture. Pour the sorbet base into ice cream maker, and spin just until is is the consistency softly whipped cream.
  4. Pack the sorbet into a storage container, Place airtight lid on it, and freeze for at least four hours.
I enjoyed this sorbet, but it's not my favorite in the cookbook. You need to buy the book and try the influenza sorbet, a soothing, healing mix of orange juice, whiskey, cayenne pepper, and other ingredients I can't recall at this time. Last winter anytime I felt puny, I ate a spoonful or two of this sorbet and it kept illness at bay. You should keep a quart of influenza sorbet in your freezer, and we can broaden our research of this sorbet's healing powers.


This land is your land,



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dang Me! I Lack Discipline

I'm still struggling to find the discipline to blog regularly.  I've been thinking a lot about how I talk much less than most people I know and I wonder how all those people find all those words.  I wonder if writing is easier for garrulous folk.  I don't speak a lot because I don't know if I what I have to say is worth hearing, which I guess is the case for most things said in this world.  I'm still going to stick with this blog because I know that the switch will click and soon I will be a writing machine.  For now, I'm resorting to cheap tactics to post regularly.  Today I went through some posts I started but never finished.  Here's one from March of this year: 

I've been reading a lot of Raymond Carver and thinking about drinking gin.  I've also been trying to write and make sense of the thing I do called blogging.  I've also spent a lot of time reading about writing and different methods writers use to write, which allows me to avoid actually writing.

A while back, I read this anecdote from Johnny Cash's autobiography.  I copied the passage down because it meant something to me at the time.  In the passage he shares this incident about driving in the California desert with Roger Miller:

Out in the middle of the desert he told me to pull over, then jumped out, and ran off behind a Joshua tree with a pad and pencil.  When he came back he had a fully written song.

It was "Dang Me."  He'd hidden behind that tree to write it because he knew it was just too hot a song to be created with me or anyone else anywhere near him.  He had to bring it into the world all by himself, like an Apache woman giving birth.  When he came back and sang it to me off the pad, I saw his point.
That's all I wrote, so now I will finish the post.

I guess, I was intrigued with what this anecdote says about writing.  It's a solitary process and sometimes you have to distance yourself from everyone and everything to for the wheels to start turning.  I guess, generally this is true.  During the past few weeks I've been experimenting with just writing whenever I can because it's not always possible to set aside chunks of time to write.  I've taken to scribbling down words or phrases that tickle my fancy.  

Did Navajo women really give birth alone?  Or is Johnny Cash is full of shit?  Saying Johnny Cash is full of shit seems blasphemous in my world.   

be good and do good,

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sausage in Wilson, Kansas

Most out-of-staters see Kansas via I-70, and the interstate is no way view a state. To appreciate any state, it's best to leave the interstate and explore. The next time you're out on the highway and you're looking for adventure, visit Wilson, KS. There in the Czech Capitol of Kansas you'll find two of my favorite things in the world: kolache and sausage. As soon as you step inside the downtown grocery store and the scent of wood smoke working it's magic on the store's sausages hits you, you'll know the two-mile detour off the interestate was worth it. Load up on sausage, it's the type of treat that can physically and spiritually sustain you all the way to the west coast.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crustless Raspberry Custard Pie

I have a recurring dream where I'm at a party, and instead of hobnobbing with other guests, I'm sitting under a buffet table, concealed by a tablecloth. I'm left alone to eavesdrop, and I'm eating an entire pie with my hands. I'm quite content, which is a feeling that pie and solitude usually inspires. Someday I will live this dream.

Crustless Raspberry Custard Pie


  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (pref. Greek-style)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 12-oz fresh raspberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, yogurt, vanilla and almond extract until very smooth. Add in flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  4. Add raspberries into filling mixture and gently stir to coat. Pour into prepared pie plate, shifting raspberries around with a spoon or spatula to evenly distribute them in the pie.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until custard is set and a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.
Allow to cool before slicing and serving.  Serves 8.

pie oh my,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dining as Routine

I'm at home for the summer, spending my days with my daughter. Our day is divided into chunks of time where we focus on household chores, academic pursuits, and general fun. Two weeks ago we each began the day by making a list of five goals we would like to achieve in June. Writing two blog posts a week is one of my goals. I want to gain some momentum with this blogging business.

Today I thought I'd share an excerpt from John Feinstein's book A Season on the Brink, which gives readers an insider's look at legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight. The idea for this post percolated in March as I listened to Coach Knight provide color commentary for the Big 12 Men's Basketball tournament, and I kept thinking about the following passage in the book:

At home, the team eats in the student union, in an elegant third-floor meeting room. Everyone, players and coaches, wears a coat and a tie - everyone except Knight, who usually arrives in slacks and a sweater. The players sit at a long table and eat spaghetti, hamburgers without rolls, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and ice cream. They drink orange juice or iced tea. The meal is always the same, home or away. Everyone gets vanilla ice cream - except Knight, who gets butter pecan.

Initially I thought the pregame meal was ridiculous. The meal makes no sense. It's something a father from the 1950's throws together for the kids when mom is out of town. Where are the vegetables? Then I started to reflect on the meal and the purpose it served, and then I began to reflect on my own dining eccentricities. Specifically, I thought about my lunch ritual at school. For the past two years, 98 percent of the time I ate the following for lunch.


Yogurt and Uncle Sam cereal. Uncle Sam cereal won't have prominent placement in most cereal aisles. It will be tucked away from the sugar-infused throng of traditional breakfast cereals. It's a stodgy cereal consisting only of wheat flakes and flax seeds, healthy goodness to fuel the body. Some of my colleagues probably think I'm crazy. Some probably marvel at my monastic allegiance to this meal. You would think that a food blogger would mix up his lunch routine. Today I'll close my post by listing three reasons this lunch routine.

1. At school I get only 15-20 minutes to eat lunch, and since I hate to rush a meal, I choose something that can be casually enjoyed in the allotted time. Time (specifically, lack of time) stresses me out. I don't wear a watch because he ticking of a clock and the realization that my days are numbered evokes stress and neurosis in my bones.

2. This lunch routine provides me with self-discipline. I love to eat, and who knows what I would look like if I ate whatever the hell I wanted to eat for lunch. I'm already a little heavier than I'd like to be, so I tether my health to this anchor.

3. I think, the stress of being an introvert in front of a classroom of teenagers dulls my appetite. I don't require a big meal, and I prefer to be light and nimble in the classroom.

I just wanted to get the blogging ball rolling with this post.

take care,

muddy waters


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I love reading restaurant menus.  If they published a book of restaurant menus, I would buy it.  I love browsing menus seeking unexpected, unconventional delights that might be camouflaged in the culinary landscape.  On bbq menus, I sometimes bypass the usual suspects, briskets, ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and look for something out of the ordinary.  This weekend I embarked on an impromptu KC bbq tour with some friends looking for something different.

At BB's Lawnside BBQ, we found:

A barbecue Sundae and a side of boudin balls.  This was OK.  It wasn't as good as the smoked catfish, which I loved and am currently looking to smoke at home.

I may have found my favorite BBQ dish in all of Kansas City at Jack Stack Barbecue in Martin City.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing The Crown Prime Beef Ribs.  Please excuse the bit of cheesy corn - one of two sides dishes that comes with the Crown Prime Beef - I dribbled on the rib.  Don't let the $30 dollar price tag scare you away from the dish.  Find two friends and each of you can enjoy a rib.  I guarantee you won't go way hungry.  This single rib looks like something that would tip over Fred Flintstones car at the drive-in.  It's juicy, succulent, and give you a concentrated beef flavor.  Take the best brisket you've ever enjoyed and multiply it by ten, this is the flavor of this dish.  Beef ribs might be my new benchmark for quality BBQ.  Order beef ribs, if you can find them.

Keep the sauce on the side,

PS. . . You should be able to order single ribs on every menu.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm Not Eating That!

My wife is convinced that I begin each day with an allotment of words, and once I've exhausted those, I'm done talking for the day.  There's much truth to this.  After a day of working with students, I don't always have a lot of words for my family.  At dinner I usually just sit and listen to my girls visit about the day.  Occasionally, I'll chime in and share bits of my day or I'll ask a few questions, but overall, I just listen.

Last night my wife had a meeting to attend, so it was just me and Little Miss Pickyeater at the dinner table.   When it's just the two of us sharing dinner, I make an effort to be more talkative.  While a have a mental list of topics I want to discuss, I never have to consult the list because my daughter uses our dinner to host her own talk show with me as a guest.   She has a knack for coaxing conversation out of her reticent father. Last night she wanted to talk about my childhood eating habits, specifically foods I refused to eat as a kid.

Today I'm resurrecting The Greasy Five by listing five foods of my childhood that I somewhat detested.

The Greasy Five

1.  Fried cornmeal mush
2.  Pancakes (Currently I'm learning to love pancakes.  I attribute my dislike to the artificial syrup that often drowned the pancakes of my youth.  Maple syrup or a fruit compote are preferable pancake toppings.)
3.  Meat loaf  (Today I'm pleased to announce that I love meat loaf.)
4.  Tuna noodle casserole
5.  Potato boats (They served this at the school cafeteria in my hometown.  This consisted of a slice of bologna that functioned as a base for a scoop of instant mashed potatoes and American cheese.  This meal still feels like some absurd dream, but I swear it was quite real.)

take care,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Coffee Ice Cream

My Cuisinart ice cream maker has been the equivalent of a car on blocks that sits in the front yard season after season. When I purchased the ice cream maker ten years ago, I had good intentions, but I rarely used it because I was unsatisfied with the texture of the ice cream it produced. I wanted an ice cream like I would find at my favorite ice cream shops. I wanted an ice cream that could be easily scooped but didn't melt into soup a minute later. I wanted an ice cream with a creamy, velvety texture, not grainy  ice crystals. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to get quality ice cream elsewhere.

Last November Jeni Britton Bauer's book Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home inspired me to dust off the ice cream machine, and after ten years of attempting to make great homemade ice cream, I succeeded. In fact, I was so successful that I made about 12 quarts of ice cream over a one-month span.  Flavor after flavor rocked my world.  This cookbook needs to be in every kitchen in American, so do yourself a favor, and purchase a copy.  This book helped this small-brained fella understand the science behind a great scoop of ice cream.

Now I just need to convince my boss to let me go on sabbatical, so I can take the "cow to cone" ice cream short course at Penn State University.

Jeni's Coffee Ice Cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark-roast coffee beans coarsely ground
  1. In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch with two tablespoons of milk, until you create a slurry.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart or larger sauce pan.  Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the coffee and let steep for five minutes.
  4. Strain the milk/cream mixture through a sieve lined with a layer of cheesecloth.  Squeeze the coffee in the cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the grounds.
  5. Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.  Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.
  6. Whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cut one of the bottom corners off the freezer bag, and pour the ice cream base in the frozen canister. Spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze for four hours

screaming for ice cream,

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oklahoma Joe's Red Beans & Rice

After reading James Carlos Blake's Wildwood Boys and learning that folks from Missouri were referred to as Pukes, I started hurling this insult at my neighbors to the East.  Sometimes it's playful ribbing, but at other times there's venom attached to my words.  When someone burns my town to the ground, I'm going to always harbor some resentment.  Puke Bastards!

If Missouri ever closed its borders to this Jayhawker, I would miss the Ozarks and of course, Kansas City BBQ.  I wouldn't mourn long though because I'd just pack the family in the mini-van and head to Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, which proudly sits on the Kansas side of KC.  I usually order the Z-Man sandwich at Oklahoma Joe's, but sometimes a stray oustside the typical BBQ offerings and sample some of the restaurants unique offerings.  One of the best non-BBQ items on their menu is the red beans and rice.

Oklahoma Joe's Red Beans and Rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch dice (Bruce Aidells makes a good andouille that is available in most supermarkets.  If you're in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, Krizman's House of Sausage makes a good andouille.  If you're in a bind and can't find a good sausage, improvise.)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cans red beans, rinsed
  • 3 to 4 cups waters (as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 cups cooked white rice 

  1. Combine the spices and seasonings, including the salt.  Set aside until they're ready for their closeup.
  2. Saute the sausage in a dutch oven over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't use any oil for this step. 
  3. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaves and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the seasonings while cooking the vegetables and combine thoroughly.  Savor this step: Place your nose directly above the dutch oven. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Greet this mingling of scents with an exuberant, "Hallelujah!" Blare The Pine Leaf Boys' Cajun version of "Wild Side of Life" from your stereo, and dance around the kitchen; celebrate this marriage of flavors.
  5. After the vegetables have been cooked, added the red beans and just enough water to cover the beans.
  6. Add the chicken base, bbq sauce, and hot sauce.  Stir to combine, then raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil.
  7. turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Stir every 20 to 30 minutes and add water if the beans get too thick.
  8. The red beans are ready to eat when they have thickened slightly and made their own gravy, which is a wonderful, beautiful thing.  It's akin to alchemy.  
  9. Remove the bay leaves.  Serve over the cooked rice.
don't let the bastards get you down,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Caramel Popcorn: Big Bowl of Love

Once upon a time, I owned the Evel Knievel stunt cycle and an RV that converted into a ramp. During this fabled time, I took breaks from performing death-defying stunts to snack on popcorn balls and grape Kool-Aid, which were a ubiquitous snacks in the 1970's.  Since then popcorn balls have fallen out of favor.  I attribute this fall and the general decline of our civilization to the fact that most people don't pop popcorn on the stove.  Many of the world problems could be solved by standing around a kitchen stove, popping popcorn, talking, and laughing.

Even though the world won't join me around the stove, I'll be there listening to the pitter-patter, pop-pop of popcorn.  I'll be there making a caramel corn, a deconstructed version of the popcorn ball.

  • 5 quarts of popped popcorn
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
I have a bowl bigger than my head, and I have a big head!
  1. Place the popcorn in a large ovenproof bowl. Place in 350 degree oven.
  2. Combine the sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup,, water, and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir while cooking to 300 degrees. 
  3. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Mix well. 
  4. Remove the popcorn from the oven. Pour the caramel over the popcorn while stirring with a wood spoon. Continue to mix until the caramel begins to stiffen too much to stir. 
  5. Return the bowl to the oven for 10 minutes, remove, and stir the mixture again. Repeat until the popcorn is well coated with caramel. 
  6. Add the remaining butter, stir gently to allow it to melt and to distribute it. Pour the caramel corn onto a clean counter top and separate the individual kernels before the harden.
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature

may all your love be covered in caramel,