Internet Humor Nostalgia Week

I knew I wouldn't have time for more than one cookbook recipe this week, so I perused my un-theme-able section and landed on Cookbook #61: Recipes for a Lady or a Man: The Achewood Cookbook (Chris Onstad, 2003). If you know what Achewood is, you will immediately understand what I mean by un-theme-able. If you don't know what Achewood is...I probably could help you, but it would be exhausting. It's a webcomic that I was very into a few years ago. Into enough to buy the cookbook (which is autographed and includes a drawing of one of the characters telling me never to smoke pot). I actually don't even want to link to it because 1) It won't make any sense whatsoever because almost none of the strips are stand-alone and 2) It will make you think very...weirdly of me. But, uh, here's the Wikipedia entry, here's the beginning of one of the more coherent story lines, and here's a recipe for home fries from this book. If you don't want to bother with any of that, you'll just have to take my word for it that Mr. Bear is a trustworthy character to be dispensing advice regarding Proper Omelette Technique.

His first name is Cornelius.

I don't know how I got it into my head that omelets (I like the American spelling, but understand that Mr. Bear is British) are fussy, but they are not. They are just as easy as frittatas and cook way faster. So that's very, very valuable information! I think the omelet vs. frittata decision just comes down to what kind of egg-to-filling ratio you're looking for. Little filling = omelet, tons of filling = frittata. And if you're going little-filling, can I recommend having my parents bring you some nice fresh harvest from their garden?

They also brought me something to wash it all down! (Liquor!) (Parents are great!)

Verdict: Oh, Achewood. Not for everyone. Or...most, maybe. But I'm probably going to spend the rest of the day re-reading the four years' worth of Ray Smuckle's blog and thinking about how good omelets are.

Hey you guys, Anna discovered Twister and she can't get enough of it!

Right foot green.

Left hand blue.


Welcoming summer, as always, with open arms

Hello, Americans! How was our first grill of the season? Nobody jumped the gun and grilled before this weekend, right? Even those who live in an area of the country whose bearable outdoor days are rapidly dwindling, tumbling ever faster into four months of lung-and-soul crushing heat, making this more of a last than first hurrah vis-à-vis backyard activities? Good, good.

As GRILL THINGS WEEKEND is a bit of pressure, I decided to warm up with Cookbook #58: The Best Grill Pan Cookbook Ever (Marge Poore, 1999). Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Alternate title: The Only Grill Pan Cookbook I Have Heard Of Ever.

I went with the Grilled Eggplant Salad with Tomatoes and Feta, which proved a really delicious lunch with the minor quibble that I found the grilled eggplants entirely unnecessary.

Unless you like your tasty foods to have bland sponge-beds. I'm not judging you.

Verdict: I should use my grill pan more often. It's not the book's fault that eggplants don't taste like anything, it's my fault for continuing to forget that fact time and time again. At least grilling makes them prettier! Keeper.

Monday morning breakfast was from a rerun cookbook, but it marked my first attempt at scones and was a glorious, cast-irony success. Homesick Texan's Apple Cheese Jalapeño Scones: highly recommend.

I will probably add jalapeños to all future scones just in case.

I didn't go strictly traditional with the midday grill (unrelated side note to those with regional English-language variations, if you ever invite me to a "barbecue" and serve hamburgers and hot dogs, there will probably be tears). Instead, I decided to give grilling pizza a shot, mostly because it seemed the easiest loophole to wriggle through in terms of Cookbook #59: The Original Cook Like A Man Cookbook: The Last Male Art Form (Tabasco/McIlhenny Company, 2004). Provenance: this very clearly arrived in my mailbox for free. Previous recipes on this blog: wouldn't you have noticed if I had inexplicably started COOKING LIKE A MAN? (None.)

Look, I'm not going to bother bickering with something that was published by Phillip Morris. (Note that the original title was the Marlboro Cook Like a Man Cookbook.) Just accept that it is tiresome and vaguely reminiscent of some lesser episodes of Home Improvement. I will point out that the recipe for BBQ Clean Out The Icebox Pizza is essentially 1) find some pizza dough; 2) put cheese and other stuff on it; 3) cook it over fire.


I guess I will cop to the fact that at some point in college I filled out a Marlboro survey in a bar in exchange for one free pack of cigarettes and in the past 12 years have been hounded through several addresses and one name change with thrilling items such as lighters, bandanas, coupons, and this particular depressing cookbook. There are HIDDEN DANGERS TO SMOKING, children of America. This is what I'm saying.

I balanced the scales with a Sweet Onion, Thyme, and Farmhouse Cheddar pizza from the far more pleasant Pizza.


And then I edged those scales right over to "kinda girly" with Cookbook #60: Better Homes and Gardens Fruit Desserts (Better Homes and Gardens, 1996.) Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Was the recipe for Peach Pecan Ice Cream quite good or was my genius addition of a splash of Frangelico the key to its deliciousness: the world may never know.

Sweet scoop of mystery.

Anna loves a patriotic holiday. She was all over helping me with that last recipe, for example.

Her job is to clean the kitchen. I don't ask questions.

Though I'm not sure she was sold on this America-sized serving of lemonade.

She takes her lemonade European-syle (100 mL, no ice).


The week it finally happened

I'm pretty sure we all knew this was coming, and likely within the confines of my current project, so here it is at last: while I've made things that were disgusting and things that were borderline-terrifying, I had not until this week managed to make something that was actually inedible. Congratulations, Cookbook #54! You've done it! We've done it together!

The heartbreak here lies firstly in the fact that The Unabashed Garlic & Onion Lover's International Cookbook (Sunny Baker, 1997; provenance: Mom; previous recipes: none) seemed such an unlikely source of unhappiness for me. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that there should be far more garlic in most dishes, that in fact the amount of garlic could perhaps surpass the amount of several other ingredients and I would still be onboard. The second reason this was all quite crushing is that the edible parts of Crispy Noodles with Garlic and Shallots dish were very good. Just not...the crispy noodles.

The breakdown occurred due to the absence of what I expect is a pretty specific technique for properly crisping noodles. ("Put them in hot oil for a couple of minutes" failed me.) All I succeeded in doing was covering a bunch of uncooked rice noodles in oil. And covering my kitchen and parts of my living room in uncooked rice noodles covered in oil.

It was like trying to fish food out of the briar patch.

Verdict: while this was my first genuine disaster (mid-way cooking report to Dan: "Dinner might be a disaster"), the flavor of the sauce and the tofu was so good that I'm guessing it was an anomaly. I will one day rise up to over-garlic a dish once again. Not a crispy noodle dish. Just to clarify.

My copy of Cookbook #55: The Starving Artist's Cookbook (Edgar Tharp, 1976) is the real deal, as evidenced as by the tape holding its binding together and the presence of my mother-in-law's maiden name inside the front flap. Provenance: my mother-in-law, apparently. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Concern that it was going to disintegrate in my hands: medium.

First I want to point out that the list price is $2.95 and couldn't you buy, like, a car for that in 1976? So the premise is already iffy.

I do appreciate a cookbook with some humor, both unintentional:


And intentional:

I see what you did there.

I decided to try the recipe for Pepper Steak in the hopes that at long long long last someone would give me decent steak-cooking instructions. "Cook until done" were not those instructions. HOWEVER, it turned out pretty good for a cheap cut of meat.

It's almost like this book was meant for me, but I'm not a starving artist! I just give myself rigid but meaningless writing deadlines for no money WAIT A MINUTE.

Verdict: I liked flipping through this, although it does not really apply to my current living situation. (There are instructions on how to shop "straight," which is 70s for "without stealing.") I'm putting it in the interesting historically but maybe not day to day useful category.

Cookbook #56 wants you to return to the picture of the steak because, hey! Potatoes are there too! The Potato Cookbook: More Than Sixty Easy, Imaginative Recipes (Nicola Hill, 1995) has a colon followed by a comma, and you have to respect that. Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. I can't say the Herb-Roasted Potatoes were "imaginative," exactly, but they were good potatoes. Verdict: potatoes.

I want to begin the discussion of Cookbook #57: Where's Mom Now That I Need Her? (Kathryn J. Frandsen, 1983) by pointing out that it includes a perfectly decent recipe for basic Chicken Salad.

College freshmen could do worse.

Provenance: I'm pretty sure this belonged to one of my college roommates and I accidentally made off with it after graduation. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Two reasons I believe this is aimed not only at kids out on their own for the first time, but specifically at boys out on their own for the first time:



Two reasons I believe you might be better off out on your own if this is the kind of thing your mother has been feeding you:



Verdict: listen, I feel kind of bad snarking on this thing. It's not even my book. And it's a sweet sentiment! There's even a section of medical advice in the back, giving you important information such at what point in the course of your diarrhea you should seek medical attention. So it's really not so bAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGHHHHH WHAT IS THAT


Anyhoodle, Ivy has figured out how to snag Sister's plate for herself.

At least she seems pretty ashamed of herself.


Treat Yo Self Week(end)

Well really just MYself, I have no idea what you guys were up to. If it was also your birthday, however, I hope you managed to fit in at least some of the following:

Breakfast involving bacon and avocado.

Champagne and a movie.

Child who was very focused on your present.

Child who considered herself present enough.

Any of the main three categories of Indian food: 1) Crunchy;

2) Spicy; 3) Creamy.

A cocktail ridiculously composed of both bourbon and champagne.

Of course, that was just for my birthday and everyone knows that Friday birthday really equals birthweekend. (I'm pretty sure this is reasonable. My birthday twin Susie is currently holding her family hostage for cake and she's a scientist.) So I figured the ol' cook-em-book shelves must be holding some ridiculous indulgence in their depths and hey, what do you know! Cookbook #52: Pedaling Through Burgundy (Sarah Leah Chase, 1995) is Freeeeeeeeeeeeench! Provenance: Mom, I think? Previous recipes on this blog: none, which is a SHAME. Quel dommage!

You know how various cultures are always poaching eggs in a tomato sauce and I'm all, "Good on ya Italy and Spain and Israel, etc."? Well, Burgundians apparently gave it some consideration and decided "Tomato sauce is good, but what if we swap in an entire bottle of wine and a not-insignificant portion of butter? And then also serve it as a FIRST COURSE?" Nicely done, mes amis.

Oh, there's bacon in there too.

Of course, this decadence comes at a price.

And that price is dirtying every pan in your possession.

 For dinner I decided to go with the Everyday French Vegetable Soup.

Recipe: butter, wine, every vegetable.

Of course, this responsible eating comes at a price.


Verdict: French food is exhausting if you are the one-pan type, but it is also delicious. I wanted to cook every recipe in this book and then buy her other cookbooks and cook every recipe in them. Two thumbs sticks of butter up.

Cookbook #53 is just called Pizza (Diane Morgan & Tony Gemignani, 1995), which is probably the best book title I have ever encountered. Provenance: Christmas gift from in-laws. Previous recipes on this blog: any time there has been a homemade pizza, it has come out of this book. This pesto-covered bad boy, off the top of my head. The New-York style dough is generally my go-to. A 12-inch pizza feeds the four of us, particularly when it is covered in half a pound of cheese, as in the case of this Spinach Ricotta Pizza.

Oh, sorry, that's half a pound of cheese not counting the titular ricotta.

It's actually a little unnerving.

Solution: pile of raw lettuce.


Verdict: this book contains both my standard pizza dough and standard pizza sauce, which are two very important human staples. Excellent for treating yo' self.

Anyway. As of Sunday, Anna is all set up for summer.


Phoning this in is my gift to myself

Here is how I celebrated our super-important PROJECT HALFWAY POINT MILESTONE: making easy-looking Pinterest dinners for a couple of days. Breaks are important! Absence makes the heart remember how convenient the internet is! Wait, hmm. Anyway, the following things were very nice and low-effort--Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Sandwiches:

I like when people think to put a healthy dinner on top of bread.

You were probably going to guess it anyway.

With all the dinner-prep time I saved this week, I had plenty of time to visually confirm our achievement of Full Toddler.

And that is all because it's my birthday and I'm going to eat tacos now.


Magazines and midpoint

I want to open with the weekend's most impressive and ambitious cooking project, Anna's "Mother's Day Pie." According to the chef, it involves cheese, eggs, chocolate chips, and animals, and takes five days to bake.

She's definitely my daughter. And a pretty good candidate for 16th century court life.

I realize that makes Cookbook #49: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens, 1996) look a little dull in comparison, but were we really expecting thrills from Magazine Week? I mean, post-demonfish, obviously. Magazines should be dependable and middle-of-the-road! I'm pretty sure demonfish were totally mainstream in 1979! At any rate, Better Homes and Gardens comes through with a very easy, entirely satisfying Mulligatawny Soup.

Also, including apples and raisins in a soup makes it an easier sell to 3-year-olds.

Provenance: ...was about to type "Mom" out of habit, but then I noticed that the bookmark in the middle is a ticket stub with the 2000-2001 UT basketball schedule on it. And it's marking a page with something called "Pizza Fish Fillets." So...I'm going to say I probably married into this particular book. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Future recipes on this blog: entirely possible.

Cookbook #50: Better Homes and Gardens Complete Book of Baking (Better Homes and Gardens, 1995). Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none, but I've definitely used it in the past. Recipe: Peanut Butter-Struesel Coffee Cake.

Did you know you could put peanut butter in a coffee cake?

I feel like coffee cake is an under-appreciated category of baked good because it's not especially pretty or exciting, but have you had coffee cake lately? It's delicious! Even if it does sort of, uh, disappear when surrounded by a Regan brunch.

LOOK THERE IT IS. Over by the mimosa. In front of the cake.

Verdict: I feel like BH&G more or less know what they're doing. I also like the occasional sign of laziness, such as the phrase "Price higher in Canada" under the U.S. price on the inside flap. Do your own calculating, consumer! This isn't a math book.

Cookbook #51: Sunset Cookbook Cla--wait a second, 51? FIFTY-ONE! We're over the hump! And you know I packed most of the really high-quality stuff into the first half, so it's downhill from here in more than one sense!

Anyway, Sunset Cookbook Classics (Oxmoor House, 2000). Provenance: Mom. Previous recipes on this blog: none. Purported number of cookbooks included in this volume: eight. Number I am counting it as: one. (One of the "cookbooks" is just appetizers and one is...cooking with a wok. Chapters, I say!) Recipe: Vermicelli with Vegetable Sauce. Terrible secret: I used capellini instead.

Imagine those noodles 0.3 mm thicker.
Verdict: good, easy, mushrooms not too noticeable. Decent start to the second half! Maybe I'll check out that wok section soon.

Ivy's having a very studious phase right now.

Mostly studying the trajectory of crayon to mouth.

Just a somber, somber girl.