Wednesday, April 28, 2010

10 Minute Cookies

I'm not going to include a recipe, because the recipe isn't the important thing here.

The important thing is that you can go from frozen butter to an entire batch of cookies baking at 350 in about 10 minutes.

Yeah baby, let's do it!

Start with your butter. I'm making chocolate chip cookies- a nice dense cookie dough. And one that Ernie requests EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK. You know this is true.

Grab the butter out the freezer (or fridge) and nuke it till soft. Or melted. Doesn't really matter. These cookies won't be spreading, no way, no how. (Melted butter makes your cookies spread. You want tall and soft cookies, refrigerate the dough. Sugar cookies? That's the secret.)

Add your sugars and beat beat beat. Then add all the rest of the good stuff - the flour, the baking powder, the vanilla, the eggs, etc. (I was following the instructions on the back of the chocolate chip bag...all the way till "oats" I thought I was doing chocolate chip cookies. Turns out there's TWO recipes on there, who knew! Blogosphere, meet my chocolate oat bars.)

Take that whole bowl of batter and smash it into a 9x13 inch pyrex pan and toss it in the oven and walk away. Ten minutes in the kitchen, tops. (Oh, and if your kids want to help, meaure the ingredients into a bowl (or cup), and let them dump their bowl (or cup) into YOUR bowl. MUCH easier, trust me. My 18-month-old helped me make these today, while her sister my chocolate chips.)

Bake at 350 for about half an hour, till the edges are golden brown. (Start checking at 20 minutes.)
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Aunt LoLo's Sweet Beans

This recipe is dedicated to my friend, Sam. *mwah*

Ok, so I've been trying to phase my house over to more Real Food. This means, in general, that I'm trying to make whatever I can. From scratch.

This is my latest attempt. I wanted to make the classic canned baked beans...without the pork. (Because who keeps three square inches of pork belly around, just to make a serving of beans?! Not me - that's who.)

My method was to look at the back of my can of generic "beans and franks", mentally delete all of the ingredients that weren' go from there.

I thought they turned out really great! The beans were a little tough-skinned, but I think that's just because it was an older bag of beans. (Any bean gurus out there that can clue me in on a way to get softer skins?)

Aunt LoLo's Sweet Beans

2 cups dry pinto beans
1 tsp. dry onions (My Bean Master sister says dry onions taste better in beans than fresh. If using fresh, chop up about half of an onion, and saute before adding to your beans. Hat tip to Myrnie!)
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 oz. canned tomato paste

Prep your dry beans - cover them with water, and swirl them around a bit. Pull out anything that floats, or anything that isn't a good-looking bean. (Anything black, wrinkled, split...those are all trash.) To soften the beans, either soak them overnight in cold water, or cover with water and bring to a boil. Either way, drain the water off afterwards, replace it with fresh water (about 2" over the beans).

Into the water, add all of the remaining ingredients to your pot, except your tomato paste. (Myrnie told me once that tomato products seem to stunt the cooking of the beans...I've never tried to tempt fate!) (And yes, Myrnie taught me how to cook dry beans. I still call her nearly every time I try to mix up a pot!)

Simmer the beans until they are soft, and then add your tomato paste. (BTW, 3 oz. is about half a can. Eyeball it...or add the whole can. Just add to taste!)

After a few minutes more simmering, taste the beans. Add more salt, sugar, vinegar, ground pepper...whatever flavor you're missing, chuck it in there. Just be sure to use a light hand - once it's in there, you can't get it back! 
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pasta and Broccoli with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

This started out as a salad dressing, inspired by a recipe here. The fact that it wasn't a very good salad dressing is most likely a user error - I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand.

Gorgonzola Dressing

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together:
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used 2 Tbsp. lemon juice + enough fresh milk to equal 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonaise

Then stir in 6 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Like I said, this was a kind of wimpy salad dressing. If you look at the original recipe, I left out the garlic and the pancetta, and added mayonaise (to thicken it up a little bit). So, again, this was a user error! The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for three days.

On the third day, I boiled 1 pound of pasta, and added a small crown of broccoli (chopped) to the pot during the last three minutes of cooking time.

After draining that, I tossed in my left over Gorgonzola dressing. It was amazing! The dressing had gained a bit of pungency during the three days, as the Gorgonzola flavor seeped into the creamy base. When I tossed the sauce into the hot pasta, the bits of crumbled Gorgonzola melted and got all stretchy. Mmmmm....

The big surprise of the night was how much the kids liked it! The three year old had two bowls full, and the one year old had three helpings! Making the dressing three days ahead of time seems a bit fussy for just a pasta dish, but I will definitely be experimenting and trying this again. I'm sure I could mix this up while the pasta was cooking, and the flavor wouldn't suffer. Just a bit of creamy stuff, thinned out with milk, and some gorgonzola. I will probably skip the lemon juice step next time and just use fresh milk, or cream if I have it.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Food Revolution, Episode 4

Suburban Housewife Uprising: Food Revolution, Episode 4

If you've missed it, I've started a new blog to talk about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution...and all the other issues it brings up. My review of this episode is hanging out over there. Go check it out!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

For posterity.  And Aunt LoLo who has lost this recipe each of the four times I've sent it to her over the years.  *mwah*  I believe this originated with my mother-in-law's little sister.

Before you start, have cooked broccoli on hand, and 1 cup of broccoli cooking water.  How much?  Up to you.  1/2 a Costco bag is good for a big pot of this.

In a large pot, melt 1/4 cup butter and saute 2/3 cup chopped onion.  (An onion.  Chop an onion.  Or two.  I really like onions)

Add 1/2 cup flour and whisk well to make a white roux. 
Add 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup broccoli water, 4 cups dairy (could be half cream, I use all milk), 1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce, 3/4 tsp salt (taste first!!).  Mix all together, add broccoli and heat.  Add 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, or more to taste. 

Don't let this boil, or it will curdle.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Once upon a time there was a set of cute stoneware bowls - one large, one small. The big one made anything look great, from bread dough to cookie batter. It could also hold loads of water for small hands to splash in on a summer day. (Do you see where this is going?)

A note to y'all - if you have a favorite stoneway bowl, and a toddler boy...never leave the two of them alone. Just don't do it.

RIP, sweet yellow bowl. Your smaller sister will carry on the tradition in your honor.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Twinkie, Deconstructed

In case you missed it, the Twinkie turned 80 yesterday. (And a Big Ol' Happy Birthday to ya!)

First, a confession - I like Twinkies. I can't remember the last time I ate one, but I probably wouldn't turn one down if handed to me. Even knowing what's in it. What can I say - I'm a sucker for a moisty, springy cake! (Someone please file that away for my birthday, ok? Thanks. Moving on.)

In this vide, the man who wrote the book Twinkie, Deconstructed gives a quick explanation of what goes into a Twinkie. He talks about the rocks, the petroleum products...the things that aren't food. (Although, the rocks are broken down into salt, baking powder and baking soda, so I guess I have no issue with those.) When asked if there is anything wrong with having these ingredients in your food, he says, "If there is, then there's something wrong with ALL of our processed foods! And some people do have a problem with they can eat more whole foods."

There's the rub. Those things are in everything from jarred salad dressings to most store-bought breads. They were added to give things a better shelf life, a better mouth-feel, a better look. I can understand that, really, I can. I guess my question is this - when, exactly, did food become a product to sell, instead of just something to eat? Why do we have to eat cakes that were made up to a month ago? Why do we want salad dressing that was made a year ago? Is it the branding? The ease of simply opening a package and having food to eat? The way the flavor is the same behind every jar, seal and wrapper?

Whether out of laziness or frugality, I've stopped buying most packaged foods. While I can pat myself on the back for doing my part to lead a healthier lifestyle...the truth of the matter is, I'm hungry. Most of the time. It's one thing to not buy the food. It's another to figure out what you are going to eat at lunch time, and snack times, and breakfast time, get the idea. I need to give some thought to what we are going to eat, if breaking open a bag of chips or a box of cookies is no longer an option!

Watch the video, and then weigh in. Also, please tell me what to eat? Thanks a ton.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Food Revolution, Episode 3

We're back!
We're in beautiful Huntington, Virginia.
If you'd like to follow along with my comments, head over to and look for episode "103." The link is at the bottom of this post.

1. Alice has issues...control issues? She's mad that she's in the test kitchen, and she thinks that the processed foods are better for the kids, because it makes them happy?

2. Rhonda, the district food supervisor, is letting Jamie into one of the high schools as well. This is a good sign!

3. The student body is, apparently, completely dependent on french fries for their emotional and mental well-being. That will probably be one of the first things that has to go.

4. He's putting together his little army - all the kids he can round up to help with the Food Revolution. And he's going to put them in the kitchen! Man, if I was in high school, I would SO be there.

5. All of these kids have either major weight-related health issues themselves, or have been intimately affected by weight issues in their families. That group of kids...that IS the revolution.

6. Homemade yogurt and homemade shepherd pie?! That sounds absolutely amazing. And it's just FOOD - no additives.

7. "It tastes good. That's not the point." We know that Alice is here for the money...and that whole kitchen might run better if she either got herself on board, or took herself out. ?? What do you do in a situation like that? She's good at what she does, but she's poisoning the project.

8. They need to raise $80K to train all of the cooks. Or just get the kids to do it. Heh.

9. Everything takes money, doesn't it? Moving back to real food...oddly enough, takes more money than the fake food.

10. Fries are a vegetable, y'all. Jamie is just figuring out that we count fries as veg and ketchup as fruit. Jamie is ticked. His dish was full of veg and NOT optional. The regular meal (a chicken sandwich and a bunch of french fries, with an optional salad) was going out like hotcakes...sans salad. So his meal was reprimanded (with veg built in, but not ENOUGH) and the other meal went out (with plenty of veg, that nobody was taking). How does that make sense? Bureaucracy, my friends.  Red tape, and it's silly.

11. I don't agree with...the wandering around the lunch room and stealing back the french fries. I mean, come on - the kids have got to know they aren't healthy. How embarrassing would it be to have your crispy fries snatched right off your tray at lunch time!

12. These kids are not chefs, obviously, and they're cooking for senators. Umm...I hate to be a kill-joy, but a senator is still just a person who grew up eating Mom's casserole for dinner and cold cereal for breakfast. Still, it's a fundraiser, so it's got to wow and convince.

13. Jamie is so funny when he's angry. He tries to kill you with kindness, to your face. Still, I admire the way he keeps his cool. (Oh, and he said he was serving pumpkin...and it looks like he's cooking butternut squash. I don't know how it is in England, but here in the US...they're different gourds. Heh.)

14. And...our prodigal chef is back! Rob had to dash off for football practice. It's interesting - football takes precedence over a dinner that could change their (health) lives. Ok, maybe not this one dinner...but still.

15. Poor little Robert - he's got to just be a freshman. Those kids are all tired.

16. "I never had a famous chef cook for me. It tastes really good." It will be great to see what they say when they find out the meal was cooked by a bunch of...non-chefs! It REALLY makes the case for Jamie's revolution. If six high schoolers can cook a fabulous, fresh meal and serve it to 80 people...then 6 grown ladies, with years of experience, should be able to do the same for a high school every day! Yes, it will take time.  It will take a lot of organization...but most good things in life do!

17. Here's the big reveal! "I started to cook because I was rubbish at everything else." Well, that's a great reason to go into a profession!

18. The boy that went through lock up makes SUCH an eloquent argument. If lock-up had had programs like this...he would have come out with a job, a hobby, and a way to help others. How true is that?!

19. Those six kids are inspiring. They are standing in front of their friends and family, and BEGGING for the means to facilitate this change.

20. "You guys make the change, and I'll believe it." That's our boy, Ryan (the one from lock-up). As parents, and adults, we do have the responsibility. We buy the groceries, we cook the meals (generally). This is our responsibility.

That's the whole show! Jamie still needs to raise his $80,000 to keep the lunch program rolling. Can you quality food in schools?

I know that there are people who just don't think about food. They eat because they have to, and they move on with the more important things in life. I must admit, I'm a little more on the Jamie side of things. I make food because I love to watch family and friends eat it. I love to see the look on friends' faces when I tell them that my daughter, Ming Wai, made the bread they are eating, because generally they assume it came from a supermarket bakery. Preparing food for my family is a priority for me. We organize our day around the meals, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. People might argue that focusing on food so much can lead to weight issues...but I think it's just the opposite. When food is forbidden, shunned or an embarrassing topic, I think that is when kids learn to hoard food, or develop unhealthy eating habits. It is my job to get at least three healthy meals in front of my kids every day, and teach them what to expect from their food, and how to get it for themselves. How to make those good choices.

How do you organize food in your houses? I loved the suggestions last week from you guys. This week, for lunch, my kids have been working on an enormous pot of pasta and broccoli that I cooked up. It's backfired a bit, as Siu Jeun (my son) is more interested in throwing the pasta around on the deck than he is in eating it. One friend (hi, Casey!) suggested that I serve finger foods - slices of bread, cheese, meat, fruit and veg. I love this idea because anything left after lunch can be put back into its containers, instead of being thrown away!

Episode 103 can be found here.

Food Revolution, Episode 2

Episode 102 we go! I'm watching these, as I can, on, and would love to hear your thoughts on these matters. Are you joining the revolution? Or do you stand by your Twinkies as Breakfast Food stance. (I totally just made that up.)

1. Defending himself on the radio...ouch. He's getting pounded.
We start off the episode with a very crabby DJ ripping on Jamie. Poor guy.

2. The grinding of the chicken....that is absolutely nasty. But I thought he said they didn't make nuggets here that way.
So, I was a little confused. He said he had this fool-proof experiment to get kids off their nuggets. Then he said that, luckily, in this country nuggets weren't made this way anymore. So...was he just trying to make gross nuggets so the kids wouldn't eat them, or was he trying to educate them as to how nuggets were made??

3. The. experiment. failed. I have chills. CHILLS y'all. THEY ATE THE NUGGETS. Knowing there were ground up bones and skin and gizzards in there.
Umm...yeah. After watching Jamie grind up an entire chicken carcass - bones and all- and then bread it and fry it...the kids still. ate. it. I have no words. 

4. That pea cracking me up. It's so. bizarre.
The pea costume was just weird. Maybe if it didn't look so completely bizarre and...bouncy? I was really distracted by the bouncing. 

5. I love the idea of getting the kids excited for their foods!

6. It still failed. Big. Fat. Fail. Nobody ate the lunch.
Jamie pumped the kids up, got them really excited about all the veg and fresh things...and...still, nobody ate his lunch. :-(

7. The Food Test. We eat healthy here, and I'm sure my daughter couldn't name off those vegetables. Granted, she's 3. Still...I don't really like this test. Five year olds just don't know the names of these things. Sorry.

8. Poor lady lied. Of course, she couldn't...she's a church lady. Still...there are signs that fast food joints were visited this week.
The sweet lady who has volunteered her family for a Food Makeover couldn't get through the week with the proscribed meals and menus. Change is hard!

9. That girl, Katie, is FOUR?! She's so tall!
The daughter in the Guinea Pig family. She would TOWER over my three year old!

10. Starting to scare the parents...he's in 6th grade, and he might already have diabetes.
So sad. One of their sons is only in 6th grade, and he already has some of the tell-tale signs of diabetes. 

11. No doctor EVER says "complications of diabetes are terrible" right before he finds out, and tells the parents, if the kid has diabetes!!
 I understand that diabetes is a serious diagnosis, but if I took my (fat) kid in for a physical, and the doctor sat me down and told me how terrible a positive diagnosis for diabetes would be...before he's given me my results...that's just cruel. 

12. "When you hear that your son is morbidly obese, it kind of hurts. You helped put him there." BINGO. As mothers, we have a major not say 'yes' to every request the kids make. It's so hard, but it's our job. (Or whoever is the caregiver.)

13. More sugar in chocolate milk than soda. I did not know that.

14. That truck load of fat is NASTY.
Jamie loaded up a truck with enough fat to represent the fat consumed, by the entire school, in a month. It was a dump truck, y'all. A DUMP TRUCK full of fat. Ewwww...

15. Mrs. Blake saw a problem and she fixed it." Now they know their veg. Does it make them more likely to eat them??
The teacher in the classroom that failed the Veg Test took it up on herself to educate her kids. Several days later, when Jamie came back for a rematch, the kids aced it. I wonder if knowing all of that makes them any more likely to dig into a piece of slippery eggplant...

16. I'm gonna cook me some chicken stir-fry, yo!" Love it.
One of the sons in the Guinea Pig family (sorry - I'm awful with names, but you know who I'm talking about) has been taken under Jamie's wing. He wants to help him get some kitchen chops and, in the process, boost his self esteem. And now...he's going to cook some chicken stir-fry, yo!

17. "Kids. can. cook."
I do not doubt for a moment that kids can cook. Should all kids be allowed in the kitchen? There, I'm not so sure. To a certain degree, sure. My daughter, Ming Wai, is actually a great help in the kitchen and is party to almost all my baking projects. My son...granted, he's only 15 months old. Still, I can see it in his eyes - he'll be the kid that would rather throw than stir. Maybe he can be my official taste tester...

18. Not using a knife means you have no use for 'real' food. Hrm...I don't really agree.
I send a lunch at least 4 times a week with my husband, and there is never any need for him to use a knife. If an item needs cutting, I snip it up before hand. Otherwise, he runs the risk of flinging bits of steak or chicken all over the office while he's trying to cut it. In fact, MOST of the food I serve in this house does not need a knife. Maybe that's just the Chinese influence - I noticed, when I lived in Hong Kong, that the cook cuts everything into bite sized pieces before cooking it. If there's a bone in the way, they chop straight through that. That way, everything can be eaten with chopsticks or a spoon. So...I guess I have an issue with the over-generalization of the statement. However, that didn't stop me from serving pancakes to the kids the next morning, and handing Ming Wai a knife and showing her how to cut up her own pancakes!

19. Teachers in the lunchroom showing the kids how to use knives and forks...and getting them to eat.
I did like the idea that, in England, teachers roam the lunch room, correcting table manners and encouraging children to eat their lunches. 

20. Alice is here for the money. Heh.
Alice, of course, is the Not-A-Lunch-Lady with a major attitude. (She prefers to be called the Cook.)

21. He gets to stay for a few weeks. Good news!  Now, HOW is he going to stay in budget, and get the kids to like the food?

The full episode can be found here.

I'm really liking what I'm seeing. It does make me think, though...why is it that there are 450 children buying lunch every day?! How hard is it, really, to pack a sandwich in the morning? I have no plans to buy lunches for my kids when they're in elementary school. I've just always planned on packing it. The show does talk about healthy food at home, too, which is good...but I'm really curious as to why it appears that the entire school body is eating off red plastic trays at lunch time, instead of out of brown paper sacks...

Wouldn't that be a more interesting revolution?