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.