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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day




The true meaning of Memorial Day of course, is to honor those who have served our country. I've mentioned Dad's Navy days before and here are some pics of he in his sailor suit as well as Mom on base and the boat he served on. Dad cooked for the boys and when I ask him how he did he typically answers, "Well, nobody died from my cookin'...that's something." I suppose when I get stressed while learning to be a better cook, I should just keep things like that in perspective.

Happy Memorial Day and thank you to those who serve and have served our country.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Succotash and the City Market




























It was a brilliant day outside so we took advantage and headed downtown. We headed for 26th and Holmes and tried out Succotash for breakfast. I instantly felt a kinship for the place....small, distinct, creatively oddball. Terrific eccentric touches abound at the place such as the carved totem, the pink chandelier, the artwork(LOVE the burning car) and of course the monkey at the bar. We had incredibly fresh orange juice to start. Keith had the Kitchen Sink: a flavorful mix of two eggs scrambled with ham, onions, peppers and cheddar on a bed of hash browns and slathered in gravy. I had the Pork Hash and eggs....an abundance of yum including shredded pork,crispy fried potatoes, chipotle-lime black beans and tomatillos...so, so good. Check them out at http://www.succotashkc.com/


We then schlepped our now bigger behinds down to the City Market at River Market...you know, to shop for more food. The scenes in Sex and the City featuring the spice markets sparked my jones to return to the scene of true Kansas City food nirvana. Indeed, as we entered, the aromas started wafting by immediately.... the smells of fragrant fresh herbs and fresh-baked bread were unmistakable among the impressive crowds. Street musicians(including a unique lady and her accordion) are intermingled with the heaping displays of produce and fresh florals. One stroll through the Middle Eastern spice area and I was nearly high from the remarkable scents(Iranian watermelon seeds, anyone?). The action at Carollo's Italian Deli and Grocery is worth the trip alone...talk about people watching. The opera-singing older gentleman refilling bins adds to the charged atmosphere....and wow, did the fresh mozzarella and cannolis look divine. We picked up some fresh bread from Van Till farms as well as some fresh basil and lemon-pepper chevre I can't wait to try.

We couldn't get out of town this weekend, but good food can make you feel like you're on vacation. Special thanks to Keith for taking the pics with his Blackberry...I forgot my camera!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sex and the City and the Hummus






Kicked off the holiday weekend by getting some friends together to see Sex and the City 2. Ronnie, Jeff, our old friend Sara Schlotter and Keith and I gathered at our house for a pre-game cocktail hour. Ronnie brought the goods to whip up all-new libations which thankfully were decidedly less lethal than the last ones he made. He made PB and J martinis courtesy of Food Network's Sunny Anderson. Frankly, I could not wrap my head around the concept of this drink but indeed they were tasty. Check out the recipe at the end of the post.

I put out a little munchie spread that consisted of assorted crackers and cheeses including smoked sharp cheddar, Husker cheese(Nebraska cheese with artichokes and spinach) and a new favorite, Boar's Head Chorizo Panino(nice kick!). We also served tortilla chips with our preferred store-bought Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. We would soon learn that hummus was an apropo appetizer...

We arrived at the theater and soon encountered our old co-worker Joel and his Mama. Soon, we also found our friends Sherry, Trish and Tanya as well. We went in with low expectations as the movie had been savaged in reviews as evidenced by their 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We were all happy to say the movie wasn't as bad as we feared and indeed we cracked up multiple times(the sand wedge!). In fact, the audience in our theater applauded when he credits rolled.

Food figures in several times from the osso buco Mr. Big makes for Carrie to the obnoxious wedding cake for Stanford and Anthony's wedding. The standout food scenes for me involved Samantha. When the medications Samantha take to alleviate the symptoms of menopause are confiscated at the Abu Dhabi airport, she resorts to reported food cures and starts wearing yam masks and eating hummus by the handful.

Welcome back, girls.

PB and J Choc-Tini
Ingredients
2 tablespoons jelly or jam, preferably strawberry
1/4 cup finely chopped salted peanuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
4 ounces chocolate liqueur
3 ounces vodka
3 cups ice

Directions
Spread the jelly and salted peanuts on separate plates. Roll the martini glass rims first in jelly, then press them in the peanuts. Set aside.

Put the peanut butter, chocolate liqueur, vodka and ice into a blender. Blitz until combined. Pour into the prepared martini glasses and serve.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chainsaws in Church and the Lost Key Lime Pie





It was surreal and a tad disturbing to be in a church watching Keith take a chainsaw to a pew and on a Sunday morning to boot. To clarify, we were in an abandoned church that is now being used for office space and is being sold to a new group. We inherited one of the pews. We could not transport it in it's present state so K took the chainsaw to it to cut it ih half. The idea is to create a smaller pew for display so we'll see. Just another bizarre day in the neighborhood, I guess...

We hit the venerable Waffle House for the first time in a long time for breakfast. A true "slap one cheesy greasy and let it bleed" kind a joint and also the home of my favorite hash browns. I got 'em smothered(onions),covered(melted cheddar)and peppered(jalapenos).

The surrealism continued on as we prepared to watch the Lost finale and since we didn't have a box of Dharma lasagna to whip up, we sampled a couple of new products to munch on while we watched. We tried out the Some Like It Hot mix from the To Market To Market food company that we picked up from the English Garden shop. We used it to make a savory, spicy cheeseball. In the spirit of the Lost island, we also tried out the Country Living Seaside Key Lime Pie in a Jar that we had gotten from the Greenhouse. Pour the filling into a graham-cracker crust, top it off with whipped cream, chill for a bit and voila...a nice key lime pie. I still miss the original key lime pie we had in Key West but this was a quick and tasty stand-in.

Watching the finale of Lost was not unlike experiencing the end of a mystifying but satisfying relationship. At times, the show was mind-blowing, other times it was so frustrating, I wanted to walk away and nearly did. But I stuck with it, and in the end, I felt it was worth it. The show was rich, complex, sometimes maddeningly dense and always fascinating. Lost consistently had top-notch production values, stellar acting and endless riddles wrapped in enigmas. The finale was an emotional payoff while remaining open for interpretation....as it should have been. In the end, it was like nothing else on television...a true original.

The Jimmy Kimmel tribute afterward offered a chance to win a box of Dharma lasagna as well as a hilarious "alternate ending" that featured Hurley, Jack and Claire sharing onion rings in a diner a la the Sopranos.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cyclin' to Grillin'






Saturday began at Ouch A.M. to head to Excelsior and help man the downtown stop for the Liberty Ride for MS. No, I wasn't in the Ride, just helping with one of their stops. We had tables filled with fruit, PB and Js, homemade cookies, Gatorade and bottled water. The cyclists stopped for a rest and we talked up the town while they refueled. Some of them took the long route...70 miles! Wow....

Keith and I continued to enjoy the warm weather and fired up the grill once again. I had bought some halibut as it's in season. I finally did what so many of my cookbooks suggested and met the seafood rep at my local grocery store. Kiersten, the Seafood Lady at Hen House was an outstanding guide for me as to what's fresh and supplied me with an easy recipe to boot.

We grilled the Halibut(recipe to follow) as well as some fresh asparagus with olive oil and lemon pepper. We served this with some whole-grain rice. The recipe, courtesy of www.alaskaseafood.org was blessedly easy...


Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon paprika

1-1/2 teaspoons each dried oregano and dried thyme

1 teaspoon each onion powder and garlic powder

1 teaspoon each black pepper and salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

4 Alaska Halibut steaks or fillets (4 to 6 oz. each), fresh, thawed or frozen

1-1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat broiler/oven or grill to medium-high heat.

Mix together all dry seasoning ingredients until well combined.

Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Halibut under cold water; pat dry with paper towel. Place halibut on a spray-coated or foil-lined baking sheet. Brush butter onto top surfaces of halibut and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mixture. (Note: For best results with frozen fish, cook halibut 4 minutes before adding butter and spices.)

Grill or broil halibut 5-7 inches from heat for 13 minutes for frozen halibut OR 8 minutes for fresh/thawed fish. Cook just until fish is opaque throughout.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shootin' for Bang Bang



Food Network runs a regular feature called Copy This which features recipes for near-replica restaurant favorites. I was beyond excited when one of the recent issues had a recipe for a facsimile of Bonefish's revered Bang Bang Shrimp. Bonefish is practically across the street from our house and one of our favorites. The Bang Bang Shrimp is pure divinity among many of our friends and I couldn't wait to try it....and last night we did.

The ingredients are simple and the directions relatively easy. The flour to egg and back to flour dives and dips made for some seriously cakey fingers which resulted in some kitchen chaos. The final product, while still very good, fell somewhat short of the Bonefish original. This was partly our fault and partly the fault of the recipe. We used one pound of shrimp as opposed to the required 1 1/4 pounds yet we did not reduce the quantities in the sauce(out of sheer ignorance, to be honest) so it was over-sauced. In addition, the sauce tasted nothing like the original. The idea is to savor the taste of the Asian chili sauce with the crunchiness of the shrimp. This sauce was too light on the Asian chili sauce and was overwhelmed by the mayo. We simply doubled the chili sauce....and there it was. NOW I found the similarities to our beloved Bang Bang Shrimp. These critiques were a result of our familiarities with the Bonefish dish...but others may like it as it is. The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

We also grilled makeshift romaine hearts with olive oil and sea salt for a couple of minutes on each side and then topped them with balsamic vinegar and feta(for me)or bleu cheese crumbles(for Keith). The grill adds some wonderful crispiness and flavor.

Some quick product notes:

* Two of my favorite condiments lately came from the Greenhouse....Country Living's Chipotle Mayo and Southern Shore's Creamy Horseradish Sauce. I quite often take a sandwich to work of thinly sliced roast beef or turkey with either a slice of havarti or muenster cheese on whole-grain bread. My only dilemma is which amazingly flavorful topping to use. If you see either of these bad boys on the shelf, GET them....you won't regret it.

* I've spoken of Rossi Pasta out of Marietta, Ohio before but recently we tried out their Chipotle Fettuccine for the first time. The fiery pasta, with no more than some olive oil and parmesan cheese made for a heapin' helpin' of some spicy righteousness. Rumor has it Rossi's is represented at the River Market Farmer's Market....can't wait to find out!

* Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints to be exact, out of the freezer. 'Nuff said.

* First signs of Spring: our first visit to Cold Stone Creamery to reiterate my love for the Founder's Favorite.

Almost-Famous Spicy Shrimp(from Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (such as sambal oelek)(we doubled it)
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt
For the Shrimp:
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined
Bibb lettuce leaves, for serving
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Directions
Make the sauce: Mix the mayonnaise, chili sauce, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon water in a large bowl; set aside.

Prepare the shrimp: Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees(we used our deep-fryer). Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl. Whisk the flour, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in another shallow bowl.

Working in batches, dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, dip in the beaten eggs, then return to the flour mixture, turning to form a thick crust. Fry the shrimp in the hot oil until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Toss the shrimp with the prepared sauce. Arrange the lettuce in a shallow serving bowl or on individual plates. Top with the shrimp and garnish with scallions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wine Wear for a Good Cause







My darling friend Sherry Evon Whetstone who I've written about before, has launched some truly unique creations to benefit her friend Charlotte's organization in Africa. Sherry has been designing wine "coats and hats" to benefit Charlotte's United African Community Center UAACC in Tanzania. Sherry is pictured at left above, Charlotte at right.

From quilts to couture and now to the wine wear, Ms. Sherry's creativity clearly knows no bounds. The "coat and hat" pictured was one Sherry made for our co-worker Rick to reflect his Native-American heritage. Each coat and hat comes with a free bottle of Sherry's homemade wine.

Sherry's friend Mama Charlotte Hill O'Neal is a vocalist, poet and visual artist who's been performing and exhibiting her artwork in America and Africa for more than 20 years. She was born in Kansas City and has lived in Tanzania since 1972. She's been in the states recently and Sherry just hosted a fundraiser reception for her.

Mama Charlotte is also the co-director of the United African Community Center in Tanzania. The following paragraph from Mama Charlotte's press release highlights some of the Center's accomplishments:

The UAACC provides free classes taught by volunteers focusing on the arts, language and life skills in the Arusha region of Tanzania. The UAACC, through the the support of many people and organizations, has been able to bring a water project, solar project, medical supplies and internet to the village community. The students also learn how to act in grassroots theater productions that bring relevant information about HIV/AIDS prevention.

Click on the title of this post to visit the website for the UAACC. Visit the history page on the website to learn more about Charlotte and Pete's fascinating story, including their history with the Black Panther movement. Most importantly, you can learn how to donate to this very good cause.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brownville or Bust

































I accompanied a group of Excelsior Springs representatives to the tiny town of Brownville, Nebraska this past weekend. The group included City Council member and ex-mayor Jim Nelson and his wife Ginger, Bob and Marilyn Gerdes, Chief of Police John McGovern and his wife Molly, and Darryl Couts from the museum and his wife Connie. We were on a fact-finding mission to Brownville as we'd heard such great things about how they turned their town around. The population of the town is a whopping 148 but what they have accomplished with it's rennaissance is nothing short of impressive. We met the fine folks who have spearheaded the rebirth of this town and their perseverence is clearly paying off.

Brownville is just past the Nebraska-Missouri border and has a welcoming yet quirky feel. We stayed at the River Resort Inn which is a floating bed and breakfast. The boat features a beautifully restored historic exterior and surprisingly sleek guestrooms(we loved the cool bathroom fixture). The residents welcomed us as a 'delegation' and had a full itinerary created for us. We checked in and headed off to the Whiskey Run Creek Winery for a shopping and tasting outing. We sampled five wines, my personal favorite being the 1854 red(the year the town was founded) and Keith's being the Levi's Reserve white.

The Antiquarium bookstore was our next stop and in all it's intriguingly oddball glory, it's one of my fave bookstores. Keith and I had visited it in it's previous incarnation in Omaha's Old Market area and now it resides in an old schoolhouse. It's a fascinating set-up that also features a gallery of artwork and dark and dusty rooms of rare books and vintage magazines. I could've stayed there all day. I bought two vintage cookbooks....one of them a Postal Service Workers cookbook from the seventies that included a recipe for Mogen David wine cake(eek!). The Antiquarium was a vaguely off-center experience but you know I relish the eccentricity.

We had dinner at the Lyceum cafe which is also a bookstore(the whole town has a dedication to the arts and in particular, books). The evening was capped off with a stirring performance by the amazing Marilyn Maye at the Brownville Concert Hall which is set up as an intimate cabaret in a historic church. Ms. Maye is a revelation..she hits smoky notes that would put singers half her age to shame. My favorite moment was when she spun her vocal web around 'That Old Black Magic' and had the 'sanctuary' mesmerized. I came to find that Ms. Maye regularly performs in New York, recently at Lincoln Center, and performed on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show a record 76 times. Marilyn Maye was pure magic. We finished off the evening with some wine and cheese on the deck of the boat.

Sunday's breakfast was on the boat(terrific quiche) and was followed by a presentation and tour through the town's history. We made a return trip to the bookstore and to the Lyceum for lunch. After a panel discussion with some of the town's movers and shakers, we headed out.

Brownville certainly has all the right grooves happening. Their energy and creativity are quite inspirational. Like Eureka Springs, they've struck the right mix of history and quirkiness. The atmosphere would be perfect for someone wanting to steal away to curl up with a good book or to write or just appreciate the offbeat charm. In fact, our weather was gray and rainy the entire weekend and that just added to the Twin Peaks feel.

Can't wait for the return trip...