Friday, December 31, 2010

Thyme After Thyme

You may have noticed, gentle readers, that I am a person who is sometimes gripped by a sudden and strong enthusiasm. It might take the form of reading obsessively on a particular topic. I might become enamored with a word and feel the need to use it as often as possible. A few years back it was stir-frying whatever was in my kitchen, which resulted in some very strange flavor combinations.

Lately, I've had an obsession with thyme. Specifically, with adding it to any dish I possibly can. Thyme has an aromatic quality I really like. It does wonderful things for meat and poultry. It's a natural with mushrooms. It adds a little something extra to homemade pasta sauce. I even threw a pinch in some spinach pesto I made the other day.

As obsessions go, this one is fairly benign. It's just that sometimes I wonder what is going on in my head. Come to think of it, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of the time you do too.

Monday, December 27, 2010

W.W. B. B.?

Last night a friend called to invite me to a New Year's Eve party. She asked me to bring something, and because I care enough to bring the very best, I asked myself that very important question: what would Betty bring?

A quick flip through my recipe cards revealed this recipe for frozen salads. I thought it was appropriate, since today we are busy digging out from under a blizzard here in Little Rhody.

I would like to call your attention to the recipe for lemon-blue cheese ice, which combines lemon sherbet and crumbled blue cheese. This is meant to be served as a salad. The mind boggles, I tell you. It boggles.

Also, I sort of think Frosty the Snowman should sue Betty for besmirching his good name.

One thing I'm learning as I peruse the recipe file is that marshmallows were apparently a food group back in 1970. I don't remember that, but I was a little kid back then and known as a "bad eater." So pretty much everything horrified me (although I still insist that some if it was not my fault).

A "salad" that contains fruit cocktail, grapes, maraschino cherries, and mini marshmallows brings me right back to Gram's jello salad, the most frightening food of my childhood. Gentle readers, I need a hug.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts

The big Christmas cookie baking day was today. I decided it would be festive if I paired my vintage hostess apron with the loudest shirt I own. I think I'm turning my entire life into performance art -- which is kind of scary because we all know how that ends: dresses made out of meat.

We made cookies. Lots of them. Hundreds of them. We did silly dancing and interpretive dancing (no, they are not the same thing). We ate lasagne. We baked more cookies.

Here are more cookies we made. Insert your own funny caption here. I'm exhausted.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unexpected Guests? No Problem!

In my continuing quest to help to make your season bright, I have found the perfect recipe for unexpected holiday entertaining: Crusty Salmon Shortcakes. Everything is, theoretically, already in your kitchen -- so when guests pop in to wish you happy holidays, you are ready to feed them individual mountains of canned fish. What could be easier?

There is some question in my mind, however, about whether the salmon would make your sauce as pink as the one pictured. You might want to put a couple of drops of red food coloring in it just to be on the safe side. Because if there is one thing we've already learned from Betty, it's this: if it's not strangely colorful, it's not festive.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just In Time For The New Year

This handy dieting tip comes from the same friend who invented diet steak and baked potatoes. Simply pour your Budweiser into a Bud Light glass, and voila! Diet Beer. Once again, genius.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I Know If You've Been Bad Or Good

This is the picture I promised you yesterday. I made treat bags over the weekend for the boss and all the fishermen. Inside there are brownies made from scratch and dipped in chocolate. About half of them were sprinkled with peppermint dust the Army Dude made by taking a bag of starlight mints out to his workbench and showing it who's boss. (We've been referring to it as "magic dust" and "crack." We probably should not do that when my nieces and nephew are here.)

To cover the brownies, I used Wilton's Candy Melts that I bought at Michael's, and which I highly recommend. The chocolate is already tempered so you just melt it in the microwave set on medium power. No problems with it seizing up or developing a bloom after it hardens.

The Army Dude was concerned that the packaging was too cute for a bunch of guys. As it turns out, what they've really been worried about is that their bags say "naughty."

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Foodtoons


My friends, I tried to write you a normal post this morning, full of sarcasm and humor. I even have a picture of what I baked over the weekend to show you. I really tried.

But the facts are these: I work for a lobster fishing company, and we lost one of our own yesterday. David Mahonen, a hell of a nice guy from Maine. I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with him one day last summer to make sure he had the paperwork and prescriptions he needed after an injury. He was a quiet guy with a wry sense of humor. He'd quietly throw out a funny comment in his Maine accent and wait patiently while it sunk in. I remember him saying that he expected to be back to work soon after the injury because he's a fast healer. Not this time, Dave. Not this time.

I've wanted to write a lot about how the fishing industry is being taken over by Big Business, how we are being told to eat local produce but the local fisheries are being systematically shut down. I've wanted to say that fishermen are being depicted as enemies of the environment by the spin machine that is part of the effort to put them out of work and to make the commercial fishing permits tradeable commodities to be snapped up by corporations. However, I've felt that Serious Thoughts are not part of what I do here at Foodtoons.

But the bottom line is this: offshore fishing is dangerous. People get hurt all the time. People die in the frigid waters. The men and women who do the job do it because they love it, and they love the ocean. So the next time you go to Red Lobster for an all-you-can-eat Lobsterfest, please remember that. And be thankful.

I'll be back with more madness tomorrow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Because Everybody Nobody Likes Fruitcake

If you've been sad because you didn't think ahead and make fruitcakes for holiday giving to people you secretly dislike, be sad no more. Betty comes to the rescue with a recipe that is fast and easy.

A careful reading of the recipe will reveal that the most important component of the fruitcake is missing -- to wit: the booze. I've met people who have made fruitcake and people who have received fruitcake, but I don't think I've ever met anyone who actually likes fruitcake. As far as I know, the only reason to eat fruitcake is because the finished product is 100 proof. So you can sit at the holiday table quietly getting hammered while Aunt Gertrude talks about how it's a shame you've never lived up to your potential.

Betty also offers fruitcake in miniature. This recipe is also alcohol-free, but the finished product has the advantage of being small so it can be slipped into your pocket for surreptitious discarding later. Good old Betty. She thinks of everything.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cubism: The Last Supper

This is my Cubist interpretation of The Last Supper, depicting the pathos of man's inhumanity to man. Also, the little known fact that eggs were served.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peanut Butter Swirl Bars (with Recipe!)

Now that, my friends, is art.

Apparently, everyone is onto the fact that I post pictures instead of drawings when I'm tired. Guilty as charged -- most of the time. Right now, Christmas cookie prep is in full swing, and I am indeed tired this morning.

However, gentle readers, I want to show you the art I made yesterday without picking up a sharpie. Behold the beauty and yumminess of Peanut Butter Swirl Bars. Also, because you are all awesome, I am going to give you the recipe. It was created by Char Nix of Tustin, MI, and I dearly wish to meet her someday because I have a feeling she has a few more delicious recipes up her sleeve. The recipe was published in Gooseberry Patch Christmas Cookies (a cookbook I highly recommend).

Peanut Butter Swirl Bars

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven of 350 degrees F. Blend together peanut butter, butter, and sugars with electric mixer until creamy; add eggs and vanilla and mix until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients in batches until incorporated. Spread in a greased 13"x 9" x2" baking pan; top with chocolate chips. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven; run a knife throught the batter and chocolate to marbleize. Return to oven for an additional 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into bars.

I cut this batch in squares which were then carefully wrapped and frozen. But feel free to nom yours as soon as they cool.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Merry and Molded Holiday Menu

As Martha Stewart is fond of saying in her many publications, a holiday party pulls together nicely when you have a unifying theme. May I suggest Foods That Are Made In a Mold, from Betty Crocker's Recipe File circa 1971? Your guests are sure to be impressed with your sophistication.

We begin with an appetizer: a festive cheese ball that is decorated for the season. So fun!

The recipe actually looks like it might be kind of tasty. Then again, anything that combines three kinds of cheese looks pretty good to me.
Next, we move on to a salad shaped like a Christmas wreath. What could be classier? I'm sure Martha would approve.

Nothings says Merry Christmas like a combination of lime jello, celery, and cucumber. You can quote me on that.

When you present your guests with this molded ring made of rice and peas and filled with fish in a curry sauce, they will never guess that you are "Entertaining on a Shoestring." I have no idea what those orange things are. The Army Dude thinks they're orange grape tomatoes, but I don't think those had been invented in 1971. I suggest garnishing with red grape tomatoes to keep the Christmas theme going.

[Edited to add: An eagle-eyed reader and confirmed foodie says he thinks those orange thingies are kumquats. At least it's an edible garnish. I was beginning to think they were plastic fruits in bizarre colors such as people kept on their coffee tables back in the 1970s.]

I must say, I'm a little afraid of any recipe that contains the words "pour fish sauce into the center of the mold." But maybe that's just me.

We finish our dinner with Pink Bavarian Cream. Something tells me that no Bavarians whatsoever were involved in the creation of this dessert.

As you can see, Bavarian Cream is versatile! You can vary the recipe with different fruits and serve it all year long.

Entertain with Betty. Your guests will love it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wedding Cake Madness


I finally got around to watching an episode of The Cake Boss on TLC, and it is deliciously tacky. This five-foot wedding cake is festooned in grapes, ivy, and flowers, and topped with a large column featuring cherubs. The center is a plexiglass box holding live doves. Live. Doves. Click the image for a closer look if you dare.

I guess nothing says "I love you" like bird poop between the layers of your wedding cake.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Foodtoons Happen

Friends sometimes ask where I get my cartoon ideas - particularly the Team Maria President, who is undoubtedly wondering if his will ever become a paid postion. I thought about it, and created a handy Venn diagram to explain how the magic happens. I'm sure that you, my gentle readers, being highly intelligent one and all, can quickly figure out that when I'm not in the Foodtoons sweet spot, I am probably slogging through either fatigue, anxiety, or irritation because the sets are constantly interacting to some degree. Now you know the real reason Van Gogh cut off his ear.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toaster Mockery

It doesn't matter if I buy the cheapest toaster Walmart has to offer, or an expensive one at Bed Bath and Beyond. Whenever I use it, it mocks me. I hate that in a small appliance.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas "Baking" with Betty Crocker

My friend Annie gave me a Betty Crocker Recipe Box from 1971, since she knew I was just the kind of nut to find it interesting. I browsed through it this morning to see if Betty has any suggestions for holiday baking and entertaining. Gentle readers, this little recipe box has an embarassment of riches. If you want to impress your friends, colleagues, and family, look no further. Betty and I are here to help.

What could be more festive and easy than Christmas trees made from Cheerios and marshmallows, dyed with food coloring to a lovely shade of green and decorated with gumdrop slices? I suggest you don't stop with gumdrops - there are all kind of decorations available that you could stick to your trees before they harden.

I'm sure Bobby and Cissy will love them - sugar is just what everyone craves after a rousing dance routine with Lawrence Welk's Champagne Orchestra. (You really owe it to yourself to watch the video I linked there. It really gets going around the two-minute mark and the jazz hands are AWESOME.)
To compliment your Cereal Christmas Trees, there is nothing like No-Cook Divinity. You've already got the food coloring out, so why not?

Although, with an ingredient list that includes a box of frosting mix, light corn syrup, and an entire package of confectioner's sugar, this recipe might actually be illegal in places like Utah. It would give you one heck of a sugar buzz. You've been warned.

I'll be back throughout the holiday season with recipes for baking and entertaining. Because there is more, my friends. So much more.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Salad Days

After the lasagne and pumpkin pie of the past couple of days, I need to be a very, very good girl this week. Cookie prep starts next weekend, when I will begin making and freezing dough to be ready for cookie day with my nieces and nephew. It's very important to sample the cookie dough when I make it, or how will I know if it's turning out right?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Thanksgiving table decoration. Sandra Lee would be horrified.

Gentle readers, it's that time of year again. The time when it's our duty as Americans to forget all about diet and fitness, and to eat all we want. I hope you enjoy it to the fullest, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

For my readers in other countries, Happy Thursday! Do something special just for you, preferably involving chocolate.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Easy As Pie

Last weekend the Army Dude and I finalized our Thanksgiving menu. He is making the traditional lasagne and I was going to bake something for dessert. I was tossing around some ideas and he finally said, "You know, I'd really like a pumpkin pie. Why don't we just buy one?" He said I've been tired lately (translation: a crabby pain in the butt) and that I should make it easy on myself.

I felt kind of guilty about it. I mean, who buys Thanksgiving dessert? Then I started wondering, in the co-dependent way of mine, if maybe he didn't really like the things I bake and has just been being polite all this time. Then it hit me: Baking. Thanksgiving - kickoff to the holiday season. Cookies. His suggestion that he can help with cookie research and development. Wanting me not to get too tired.

I am so onto him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Leftover Magic

It has come to my attention, gentle readers, that I told you to go forth and make Portuguese Pot Roast, but I did not tell you what to do with the leftovers. Making a sandwich seems obvious, but I recommend you use my method as outlined above. Trust me: you think it's just a sandwich, but my method is superior to all other methods.

You must use whole-grain bread, and you must layer the ingredients as shown. It's important that you use either grainy or Dijon mustard - none of that nasty yellow stuff is allowed.

If you want to leave the condiments and utensils on the counter to facilitate coming back for a second sandwich, I won't tell anyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Suit Yourself

One of the benefits of being an old maid with a cat is that I don't have to take anyone else's food preferences into account every day when I cook. Tonight's dinner is a good example of that. I think most everyone I know dislikes at least one element of this dinner; I like it all and that's what matters.

The Japanese-Style Curry is a recipe from 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery, but I leave out the potatoes and serve it over rice. It's how I like it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Auntie's Etiquette Tip

If you drag an Army Dude out first thing in the morning to come to your house and help you with a flat tire, it is correct form to give him breakfast. It also gives you something to do besides freak out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Is For OMG I'm Tired

Gentle readers, it's Friday. I've been blogging my heart out for 19 days now, and I'm exhausted. I promise to go to bed early tonight and hit the ground running tomorrow with fresh madness.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keep It Simple

Honestly. Making tea is not a complex process. So why do restaurants (and even some coffee shops) insist on serving a cup of hot (not boiling) water with a teabag on the side?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pain Relief

I am so having one of these tonight. They're surprisingly good, and ready in 45 seconds. Sometimes a girl just needs chocolate NOW.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A friend recently told me that he can tell when I'm tired because I post photographs instead of drawings. Sometimes I want to rant about something like the avocado slicer and you can't get the true stupidity of the item without a photo. But at other times, he's absolutely right.

The thing is, posting 30 Foodtoons in 30 days is hard work - even for someone as prolific in the madness department as I am. Occasionally, a girl needs a little rest.

This is my 16th NaBLoPoMo post, so I'm just over halfway through. To celebrate, I drew you a happy dancing pancake breakfast. Mrs. Butterworth is doing jazz hands, my friends. That is some quality art right there.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The Army Dude and I have a little tradition of going to Maggiano's Little Italy after the opera. Yes, we know it's a chain, but the food is great and they always seat a party of two in a booth that is out of the main action of the busy dining room. They also play Sinatra, which I greatly appreciate and enjoy.

I'd been looking forward all week to the fried zucchini appetizer. I don't know exactly what they do to it, besides coat it in panko crumbs and stick it in a fryolator, but it's delicious.

We both followed up with pasta dishes - baked ziti for him and gnocchi for me. Oh, and we also had side salads. They give the illusion of health.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I see these avocado slicers around every once in a while and they never fail to annoy me. All I can think is Seriously? A slicer specifically for avocados? You can't use a PARING KNIFE to do the job?

This particular model, available at, is $9.75. Not a big investment. But why on earth would anyone need it? The description says it's "great for creating beautiful slices that present perfectly in any dish." Are the slices really that much better looking? Why are people so afraid of the tiny variations in hand-cut slices?

I blame Martha Stewart. She ruins everything.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Go Cute Or Go Home

Some of my favorite kitchen items are the aprons my mom has made for me over the years. I use them all the time, and whenever I pick one up to put it on, it makes me smile. Sure, a plain white chef's apron would do the job of keeping my clothes clean, but cooking is more fun when you're wearing a cute apron.

Go cute or go home. Come to think of it, that's kind of the motto of the women in our family.