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Food


Okay, in the last installment of this burgeoning family cookbook, I did my Dad’s Rummyrummy Rumcake. I mentioned that it is one of only three things he asks for.

Well, here is the second thing he asks for: Nutty Chocolate Sheetcake.

I also love this cake. It has a flavor that I can’t quite pin down. I think that the buttermilk is what does it. There is a chocolaty tartness to it that is almost exotic.

And the thing that I like most about this cake is that it is so easy to play around with.

You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, a little cayenne and you have a Mexican chocolate cake. Better yet, substitute crema for the buttermilk and Hazow!

You can substitute all kinds of nuts. Or you can exchange the nuts for dates.

You can add raisins to the batter. Or chocolate chips. Or mint. Or you could swirl in ribbons of cherry jam. Or, or, or you could put a thin layer of apricot jam over the cake before you pour on the liquid frosting.

Wow, I think I just messed myself.

Anyway, it is a rare thing that I go to my parents and happily find leftovers of this cake sitting in the kitchen. But when I do, I grab a bowl, slam a hunk of the cake in it, and douse it in milk. Then I say, “Hi,” to my parents.

Anyway, enjoy!

Dad’s Nutty Chocolate Sheetcake

Ingredients:

The Cake

2 C. Flour
2 C. Sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. water
1 stick margarine
3 1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/3 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Icing

1 stick margarine
1/3 c. milk
3 tbsp cocoa
4 c. confectioners (icing) sugar
1 1/2 c. nuts
1 t. vanilla

Directions:

For cake:

1   Preheat oven to 400°.
2   Bring to boil the water, 1 stick margarine and cocoa.
3   Mix with the dry ingredients.
4   Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.
5   Pour batter into sheetcake pan.
6   Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

For Icing:

1   Bring to boil 1 stick of margarine, cocoa, and milk.
2   Add confectioners sugar, vanilla, and nuts.
3   Pour over cake.

Seriously, this may look like a complicated cake, but it really isn’t. And it is tay yay yasty!

This one’s for Martini. She is a great and goofy friend of mine who has issues with wheat — gluten, to be more encompassing. But she is such sunshine whenever I run into her that I always think, “I’m going to make her the best gluten free (insert something here) she could ever eat!” And I meant it. But then the day would continue and the thought would be overwhelmed by so many other things.

Well, Martini, today is the day!

My wife’s best friend and her mother stayed at our house for three nights last week. And her mother has Celiac’s Disease. That means if she eats anything with gluten in it, she doubles over and wishes she were dead. So I was forced — and I really do mean this in a good way — to make gluten free stuff.

I knew very little about non-gluten stuff. Who am I kidding, I still know very little. But I know one thing now: clafoutis is best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a long, long time.

Just say the word: clafoutis (Kla-foo-tee). It’s fun to say. My wife nearly lost her mind the day I discovered it. Clafoutis clafoutis clafoutis! It’s just plain fun to say.

I think I happened across it on one of my crazy cooking shows. And I thought, I bet there has got be a gluten-free version of that bad boy. Well, there are about a gazillion (Martini’s word, not mine).

I found one that sort of looked good, whonked around with it a bit and here it is. It is soooooo good. I can’t even tell you. And, even better, it’s dangerously easy.

Martini’s No Gluti Clafoutis

Ingredients:

3 cups any fruit or fruit mix*
2 tablespoons honey**
1 1/4 cup milk or milk like product***
1/3 cup sugar / vanilla sugar / cinnamon sugar ****
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rice flour^
1/4 cup tapioca flour^
1/4 cup sugar^^

*Traditionally clafoutis is made with cherries. I make mine with 2 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of pitted, split cherries.
**The first time I made this I used basswood honey. I love this honey, it has a funky minty taste to it. But I didn’t think it worked so well, so I just use your basic clover.
***Almond milk is quite delicious as a dairy substitute for this dessert.
****I use vanilla sugar. Super easy: Split a vanilla bean. Scrape out the seeds. Fill a container with 4 cups of basic sugar. Toss in the seeds and shake. Toss in the empty pods. Close container. Let sit for week or more before using.
^You can substitute ½ cup of any blended gluten free flour mix. But I really love the texture that the tapioca flour gives to this thing.
^^I use a mix of cinnamon and sugar for this.

Directions:

1   Preheat the oven to 350°.

2   Wash the fruit and cut it up, if you need to. Toss it all with the honey and set it aside while you proceed.

3   Put everything else, but the last ¼ cup of sugar, into a blender and whir it up for a minute or two. It will look like popover batter…if you’re into that sort of thing.

4   Pour a thin layer of batter into a medium casserole dish. Make sure it covers the bottom, and bake it until the layer has set. This might take about 10 minutes. Jiggle the dish. If the batter doesn’t jiggle, or jiggles just a little bit, then it’s ready.

5   Spread fruit over the bottom layer of cooked batter. Sprinkle on the last ¼ cup of sugar. Pour in the remaining batter. Shake it to let the batter settle a bit.

6   Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top brown and crispy.

7   Let this thing cool, at least to just a little over room temp. That is where the custardy magic happens.

This stuff is great on its own. But if you are a devout over the topper, I suggest a little cream or half-and-half or crème fraiche. Mmmmmmm.

This topic garnered another post-reader a “Word Hoard” shirt! Thanks and congrats!

I love beer. I really do. And I didn’t really think about why until a friend of mine, who also loves beer —but in a decidedly different way — asked me to write about it.

There is just so much about this little beverage that turns me on. And it’s not just about the buzz or, on those rare occasions, the desire to drink this little liquid lotus to forget the day’s ills.

It’s got a crazy history, much crazier than wine, I think. It’s one of the first foods, in a long line of foods, that American manufacturers ripped the soul out of for mass-production ease. Yea, American progress. I mean, my god, one beer company’s tag line was even “Easy drinking.” What a strange dichotomy for American beer. “Be a man, drink beer. But drink this one because the others taste too much like beer.” Crazy.

Beer was originally a way to use up excess grain harvest. Liquefy it and it will last longer. At least the rats won’t get to it. But if you keep it too long it makes you feel funny. I like that. The serendipity of it. There are a couple of scientists/archeologists/brewers from Dogfish Head who have scraped the inside of some ancient pots, dibble-dabbled, then made a brew from that dibble-dabble called Ta Henket. They have a newish one called Midas’ Touch. That’s just fun.

Then you’ve got Jim Koch from the Boston Beer Company, who is brewing some crazy liquor beer (which I kind of question as beer). I actually drank one of his triple bocks. Nearly killed me. Like drinking liquefied Marmite.

Right now is a great time for beer. We are living in a creative maelstrom of brewing innovation…or insanity. I’ve tried something called Goat Scrotum Ale, which is brewed with both chocolate (not chocolate malt, but actual chocolate) and Szechwan peppers.

And then the names. I love the creativity with the naming, although my favorite beer is pretty simple. Falstaff. I haven’t even tried it. But the name and all that it means put in right in my heart.

For me beer kind of falls into three categories: Malty, Hoppy, Fruity. Yeah, I know it’s really Ales, Lagers, and Lambics, but that’s not how I think of beers. I break them down by how I like them.

Here is the thing; according to the classic German Reinheitsgebot, their purity law, there are only three ingredients that can go into a beer: water, barley, and hops…although they now allow yeast as well. And with those three or four ingredients they made an incredible variety of beer. It’s kind of incredible. Well, now we are throwing in all kinds of crazy hoo-haws just to see what happens. But it really always comes back down to those three ingredients.

I don’t like hops. I know, I know. Hops are one of the cornerstone flavors of all beer. It adds the bitterness. My “beer friend” loves hops. He likes beer that’s so bitter it turns your face inside out. I do not like that. It is bracing. It’s … it’s almost shocking. I also don’t like sour candy.

Thinking about why I don’t like hoppy beer really made me understand why I like beer. Hoppy beer takes me outside of myself. It’s stinging and eye-popping. It makes me shiver. It makes me feel my tongue. Yuck.

What I love is malt. I want sweet, malty, thick beer. I love Guinness, even the mock-Guinness we get here in the States. I love a beer that feels and tastes like loose molasses. This beer warms me and droops my eyelids. It makes me lean back rather spring forward. It makes me go mmmmmmmmmmm. And what all that means is that I find it comforting. A malty beer is like a warmed blanket on a chilly night. When I’ve had a bad day, a Guinness can do a lot to comfort me. Thick and sweet and warming, like a friendly hug from the inside out.

I do like some fruity beers too. I classify Belgian whites under this category with their citrus and spice. I do like those.

Mass-produced American lagers… not so much. It evokes the great Monty Python phrase, “American beer is like making love in a canoe; it’s fucking close to water.” But I am truly excited at the forays some of the big brewers have been making into non-water beers. I must admit to liking Amber Bock, which I’m sure you know is an Anheuser-Busch product. I have also glommed onto Shock Top this summer as a nice lighter brew — another Anheuser-Busch sortie into beers that taste like beer.

Finally, I love variety. My wife kind of goes a little crazy with my cooking (this tangent will come around). She would eat a core five meals for the rest of her life and be perfectly happy. I don’t think I make the same dinner above two or three times a month. I like variety. I like experimenting. The same with beer. If I can have a good solid malt-horse at home and weekly dabble in a new brew, I am quaff-happy.

Just don’t ask me to suck down an IPA. It hurts me.

Several of you have asked me to bring back Pieday Friday. Alas, the unfortunately timed post-pie bout with the stomach flu has kept me from embracing your entreaties. However, I have decided on a new food-themed serialized post. For now I am calling it For the Boys.

The idea is this: Both my family and my wife’s family have deep food traditions. Her grandfather owned a diner and supposedly made donuts that people traveled a tri-county area to get. And my family…well they’re from the South which means food is in the blood.

Some of my favorite and closest memories are of food. Some dinners I can still conjure scents from. It’s that strong to me.

Very early in my two year-old’s life my wife started the spice game with him. She would hold him, standing by the spice rack and pull down spices, letting him smell them as they went. Some of the first things he could tell by sight were spices. He was never too keen with the whole baby rattle routine, but he loved to shake his cinnamon sticks. There was a time when he couldn’t sleep without them.

I’m pretty sure my boys will love their food. So I thought I would begin compiling a family cookbook for them. Since my mother’s birthday is on the first of July, I thought I would run each new recipe on the first posting of each month, so here it is.

Nearly every night my mother asks my father what he wants for dinner. Nearly every night he says, “Whatever.” One night she put together a heinous dish—I still don’t remember what was in it, but I think it might have had shrimp cocktail sauce and mini-sweet gherkins— which she called Whatever. No one ate it. But it did not have the affect she wanted. He still answers whatever.

There are only three things that my father asks for: Cornbread-beans-n-potatoes, sheet cake, and rum cake. I’ll hit all of these as the months go on, but I will begin with my favorite:

Dad’s Rummyrummy Rum Cake

This was probably the first alcohol I ever had. I love this cake. It is the special cake. Mom will make dad a sheet cake at the drop of a hat. But Rummyrummy Rum Cake—it only comes out for special occasions. That’s because it takes time. It doesn’t take time to bake, oh no. The time it needs is to soak, so enseep, to ingest the heady rum and sugar so that your head will begin swimming well before the fork reaches your mouth. Oh, god! I love this cake!

The Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 box pudding in the mix yellow cake mix
3 eggs
½ c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
½ c. white rum (you can use dark or spiced, if you like)

I like to toast the walnuts and cool them before chopping them.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts into the bottom of the pan. I like to roll the pan around a little.

Mix the rest of the cake ingredients.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan.

Bake for 1 hour.

Cool.

The Glaze

1/2 lb. butter
1/2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 c. rum

Melt the glaze butter and stir in sugar and water.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. No longer! If you go too long the sugar will recrystallize.

Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

The Magic

Turn cake out onto a serving plate (I prefer something with a ridge to hold the glaze in). Poke the top with a toothpick. I like to use a skewer because it gets in deeper.

Pour or brush the glaze all over the cake. I like to pour some around the ring of the cake. Then I like to brush glaze along the sides so that there is glaze all over the cake.

Allow it to soak up the glaze, then repeat until it’s all gone. This can take a while.

Sometimes, if I don’t think the cake has the right, shall we say, nose, I will pour rum directly onto the cake. It should smell rummy.

I like to let this cake sit for a day before serving. It really makes it delectable.

Okay, so morel hunting season is starting up, and, as I understand it, there are two camps:

Camp One is “Oh, my god, let’s get on our hiking boots, grab a big bag and go. I can’t wait!”

Camp Two is “What?”

I will take this moment to posit that there is a third camp, my camp: “I want to love the morel, but I just simply can’t put that thing in my mouth.”

I think that I can pinpoint my dislike — well, I can’t really call it that — let’s call it distrust — my distrust of morels.

It took me a long — a really long — time to get into fungi. I probably had my first fresh button mushroom in my early thirties. My knowledge of mushrooms was completely formed by cans and Chinese restaurants. Slimy, gray, pungent, slippery sticks of rubbery snot.

It probably didn’t help that I had to open those six-pound cans of mushrooms for my pizza job in college, the sickening smell, like food-borne formaldehyde, grabbing my forest of nose-hairs and ripping them violently up into my brain cavity. You might say that it left an impression.

My first memory of eating good mushrooms came from my wife, my then off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-on girlfriend. She really only cooks about four things: fajitas, hard-boiled eggs, sautéed mushrooms, and … okay, maybe three.

Anyway, she was going through this mushroom phase and I was, quite frankly, a little appalled. But then I saw her cook them. Little white buttons sliced to about an eighth of an inch piled on the cutting board. Butter sizzling in the skillet. She dumped the buttons in the skillet, turned them a couple of times then coated them liberally with a mixed Cajun spice, and it was done. Simple.

You know how there are those people who believe that bacon makes everything better? Or, wait! I once had a friend who liked to say, “You can deep fry a turd and I’ll eat it.” I kind of feel that way about butter.

Butter got me over the hump. It was simple — three ingredients — and delicious. So that got me into the fungi.

I can’t remember when I started hearing about the whole morel thing. It’s like a weird food cult, you know. But I heard that a couple of our friends were avid morel hunters, so I mentioned it to them. They got all excited and turned suddenly evangelical about it. It was a little disconcerting.

They were heading out the next week and told me they would bring me back some good ones. I was pretty stoked about it.

What they brought me back was a Ziploc baggie of pale, slimy alien phalluses. There, I said it: Alien Phallus.

Now, as much as I like to think of myself as a “foodie” I am not a nose to tail guy. I once had beef heart at a restaurant well-known for its beef heart, surrounded by slavering beef heart lovers, and it was all I could do not to launch my half-digested beef heart onto the center of the table. I drank a lot of wine that dinner.

Anyway, what I am saying is that I am not the kind of guy who vacations to Bangkok for the tiger penis.

I couldn’t eat those morels. I could barely grab the bag they were holding out for me.

That was years ago. And I have recently been thinking that I might give it another go.

Then I was listening to my podcast of The Splendid Table. She was talking to this guy who was getting ready to go out morel hunting. They sounded like two basement-boys at a Comic-Con talking about the new Green Lantern movie.

Anyway, the guy said he liked to reconstitute his dried morels in milk. I nearly had to pull over. For some reason that just reached down my throat and pulled my stomach up to my larynx.

It might have put me off morels in perpetuity.

I love cooking shows. I may have discussed this before, so sorry … but …

Especially the competition shows. It’s like watching instant creativity. I’m suffused with wonder and respect for the chef and, I must admit, envy.

I had, at one time thought about becoming a chef.

One of my clearest memories is of a dinner I made for my family. I was in high school. Maybe sophomore year. My mother had these great Time-Life recipes of the world books. I pulled out the French one, Provence, I think. The whole dinner was from that book. And the thing I remember most was the cream of carrot soup. That dish, perhaps that dish alone, fired my desire to cook.

My first couple of years of college I worked for the college’s pizza delivery company, Wild Pizza. I love it … after my first nearly ruinous night. I was asked to make the dough — I think it was for the next day, but I can’t quite remember. Anyway I misread the yeast. I converted tablespoons to cups. Yeah, bad, and even worse, stupid — stoooooopid.

I loved Wild Pizza. We would put anything on our pizzas. The O’Malley, although new to me was an old pizza for Boston: Just crack a couple of eggs on top. It could be a sausage O’Malley or a pep O’Malley or even an Hawaiian O’Malley. But we had stoned and drunk frat boys calling in for Lucky Charms pizza or pastrami pizza. We worked out of the food service hall, so if we had it we put it on. I even have a vague memory of making a pizza pizza, where we took a frozen pizza, chopped it up and put it as toppings on a fresh pizza.

Then at the U of Iowa I worked at the State Room, our fine dining restaurant. I worked for a crazy Frenchman named Andre. I started at Salads, did desserts, and ended up on Grill. This experience kind of took the food wind out of my chef sails. It wasn’t the hours, which were horrible, especially for a college student. It wasn’t the heat, though it only took leaning once against the tile wall by the grill to learn not to do it again. It was the insanity.

Andre was insane. The megalomaniacal Greek sous chef was insane, mean, and had a zip code-ego. The staff was filled with kooky, pot-smoking, gad-about nymphomaniacs. Don’t get me wrong, that last part was fun, but really, really, really, tiring. And they would screw each other (metaphorically) to make themselves look better, paid better, and get more time off.

It was the politics of insanity in a relatively irrelevant world. I don’t do that well.

So when I see people who work in that insanity (because I know that insanity is prevalent in restaurants) able to rise above the petty groo-groo whackum, and clear their minds enough to create tasty food on the fly, they get my instant artistic respect.

I feel like I get a little  creative boost from their creativity. And that kind of art, edible or not, feeds my soul.

I want to create and own a restaurant.

How insane is that?

I’ll tell you how insane. I don’t have any culinary training. I don’t have any money. I live in a city that is notorious for it’s eschewing of gastronomic creativity.

But hey, I love food. So I’ve got that going for me.

I have wanted to own a restaurant for ages. I remember in middle school we had a unit in some class where we created a business. Maybe it was high school — I can’t remember that detail. But I created a restaurant. Andrew’s I called it. I had a menu — I think my dad still has it in a file (I’m 42 years old). I even had a floor plan on graph paper. That was just the first restaurant I dreamed up.

Later in high school — I can’t remember if it was for a business class, maybe Econ — I created F. Scott’s. This was my favorite. I had just come off reading The Great Gatsby, which I hated. But I loved the setting.

F. Scott’s was, I admit, a probable money-pit. It was a Roaring Twenties theme, complete with band, singer, roving photographer, and (then) cigarette girl. Steak tartare, foie gras torchon, filet mignon, rack of lamb, stuff like that. I’m sure the overhead would have been a killer.

There was a great restaurant here in town called blend. It was so good, so creative. A couple of venture capitalists, a culinary teacher from our local culinary school, and a couple of young turk chefs. I heard they’d get together, watch Monday Night Football, drink some beer, and make up their menus.

They changed their menu each month or so, which I think is brilliant. And it was wildly creative. They also had an option for a tasting menu of their most popular items. It was so good.

But we had that unbelievable flood, and they were flooded out. Then our city government couldn’t’ pull their heads out of their asses and our downtown still hasn’t recovered. But blend was one of the first places to reopen, really trying to get downtown going again. And that was their downfall. People just weren’t willing to head back down yet. It was the best restaurant in town, and I if I had the money I would have invested in it to try and keep it going.

So here is my new food-kink: a healthy fast food joint. My new eating style is really making eating on the fly impossible. McD’s, BK, Hardee’s, Taco Bell: even their “healthy options” aren’t that healthy.

It can’t be that hard to design an incredibly tasty menu of healthy wraps and sides. How about a tofu chimichurri wrap with a side of roasted sweet potato spears? Or a veggie garlic aioli wrap with a side of raw carrot batonnets? Or a balsamic chicken roasted-veggie wrap with a side of fried carrot chips? Or pear, banana, Nutella, cinnamon, and ricotta wrapped in a cocoa tortilla?

If I were running errands and got caught short on lunch, I would go out of my way to drive-thru at this place rather than tuck into a Hardee’s Six Dollar Burger — which I not only love, but have actually dreamt about. Sad, but true.

But alas, I live in a meat-and-fried-potatoes city (if not state). I would give the establishment about six months. But with the right location, I bet it would be sizzling.

Oh, there are more restaurants I want to open. With the funds and gumption I could probably become a serial restauranteur.

Just another form of gluttony I guess.

My wife and I are desperately looking for a good Asian takeout restaurant in our town. Actually, we are looking for one that we both like. It’s not easy, and I don’t know why.

There is a little Vietnamese place that I love called Phong Lan that I love. They’ve got these great spring rolls and mint drink, and their pho is really good. But my wife doesn’t like Vietnamese food.

We both love this Japanese restaurant called Sushi House. But it’s not really a take-out place and it’s on the other side of town.

The same problem with a place called Thai Moon. I really have to want Thai food to go there. And for take out? It’s easily a thirty minute trip.

Part of the problem comes from a crushing culinary blow to the east side of town.

By far our favorite restaurant was a Thai place called C.R. Thai Flavors. My wife and I loved it so much we had our wedding rehearsal dinner there. Yes, it’s true.

They had this wall with photos of everyone that ate there. In fact, they sat us in front of the wall that had a photo of my and a previous girlfriend. I shit you not. My wife and I were seated directly in front of that photo. My best man secreted the photo off the wall and into his pocket before anyone else saw it.

The owners were two lovely Thai immigrants. They introduced themselves as Sandy and Steve, their chosen American names. They really treated us like family. I could go in and say, “Sandy, all I know is that I want something with a peanuty sauce,” and she would say, “Ahh, Mr. Handsome, I fix you right. I know the thing. How you lovely wife? How her leg?”

I’m actually getting a little misty thinking about her. I absolutely loved them. And they never disappointed.

But, alas, they moved to California to be with their kids. The place has changed hands and, honestly, it sucks. My wife and I have made three valiant attempts to like even the basic menu and it just doesn’t taste good.

We have, unfortunately, gotten into the rut of, I can’t believe I’m saying this, Hy-Vee Chinese. There was a time we were eating it three times a month. But it is such American, cloying, all-meat, Chinese-like food. They don’t have a single veggie-only item. And it is essentially two basic flavors spread over eight entrees.

Don’t get me wrong, we eat it with gusto, but I always feel a little gross afterward.

And since my new eating habits, I am really only eating one major meal a day. That meal has become a little sacrosanct. If I don’t want to sit back and chew a bite of food forever, savoring the taste and feel of it, then it’s increasingly not worth the space and calories for me.

There are a couple of places on the east side that I do like: China Inn and, mostly, East China. But for some reason my wife doesn’t like them. This is from a person who professes a general indifference to eating out.

She is willing to give them another go, which we will in the near future. But this is our task: find an Asian takeout on our side of town that we like.

So, if you are in the area and have tried one of the following restaurants, please do put your cents in with a comment. Please do note that the strikeouts have been tried and rejected.

Thanks for your help.

East Side Asian Restaurants

Hy-Vee Chinese
China Café
China Incorporated
East China

Egg Roll House
Great Dragon Buffet
Ting’s Red Lantern
Wok-n-Roll
Siamville
Beijing Chinese Restaurant
Pei’s China Bistro
China Inn

I get the joy of feeding my 18 month-old breakfast. I do not mean that in any cynical way. I do enjoy it. It is a time for the two of us to connect over one of our favorite things: food.

He eats food in the way I wish I could eat food. He shoves in and celebrates the things he likes. He throws food he doesn’t. It is almost as primal as eating can get. I would love to be able eat at a restaurant the way he eats at home.

This morning he had water, grapes, bananas, and little cinnamon animal crackers. I was having some peanut butter on toast. He almost always wants what I’m eating. I could be eating boiled eel on puffed rice cracker and he would want it. Anyway, this morning he points emphatically to what I am eating and says, “Moa! Moa!” More, more.

I smeared some peanut butter onto his cinnamon cracker. He grabbed it and shoved it into his mouth. He pulled the cracker out, nearly wiped clean of peanut butter, and he said, “Wha? Wha?”

I said, “It’s peanut butter.”

He goes, “Budda? Buddah?”

I said, “No, buddy. It’s peanut butter.”

He reached his cracker out to me and said, “Moa? Moa?”

I scraped some more peanut butter on his cracker.

He grabbed it with both hands, raised it above his head and screamed, “Pebble buddah! Pebble buddah!” Then he gritted his teeth, shook all over, and made a growling sound before plunging the whole thing into his mouth.

The next one he rubbed into his hair before eating it.

I want to do that.

Imagine.

Jason Alberty sat quietly, gazing lovingly at his wife, who sat across the white linen covered table. This was their sixth anniversary. They were celebrating at Zins, a local wine bar that served tappas-sized portions of tasty combustibles.

Sitting just off to the right of his place setting was an as yet untasted goblet of his favorite Schug Cabernet.

The waitress set a triangular white china plate in front of him, turned it ever so slightly.

“What is this?” he said.

“It’s lobster risotto,” the waitress said through a warm smile, “with, corn, grape tomatoes and sherry syrup.”

Jason took the fork and felt the heft of it in his right hand. He scooped a tentative dollop of the pillowy risotto onto the tines and brought it up to his lips. He paused and took in the rich scent of the lobster and the butter that plumped the risotto into little grains of savory heaven.

He slowly placed the back of the fork upon his tongue and closed his lips around it. As he slid the fork out, the risotto melted onto his tongue and the aroma wafted back into his warming throat.

He chewed and swallowed.

He closed his eyes.

Then, with lightning alacrity he threw the fork to the floor and plunged both hands onto the plate, taking two fistfuls of the risotto. He stood, knocking the chair backwards, his fists filled with the creamy rice raised triumphantly into the air as he bellowed, “Lobstah risososostaaaaaah!”

He smashed the risotto into his face and ran his hands over his head, smearing the lobster infusion into his ears and mouth as he bellowed joyously to the gods of grain and the sea.

He grabbed the goblet of wine and lifted it above his head, pouring it at arms length into his gurgling maw. And with a flourish he threw the goblet to shatter against the dark wall.

He sat down and looked up at the waitress. “Moa?”

I kind of want to do that.

Okay, hopefully some of your remember the post entitled “This Dog.” It was about our dog, Fenway, eating about a dozen of our favorite Blueberry Bran Muffins. He survived both the bran and our wrath.

Well, he has done it again. Except this time he has done it with some hand-rolled sugar plums. I would guess he consumed around 40 of the 80 that I spent an hour hand rolling. The other forty were spread over the counter and looking quite log-licked.

Again, I wanted to kill him. And it was, of course my fault, which made me even angrier. I even thought, I should put these in a Rubbermaid. But nope. I made a nice little sugar plumb pyramid. Festive! And apparently it makes it easy to stick your long black nose onto the counter and curl your pink tongue around like a furry black giraffe.

Well, I mentioned it on the Facebook and a couple of people wanted the recipe, so here it is. I tasted two of them. And they were really very good. A little Middle-Eastern flavor, which I really liked.

It is, as per usual, an Alton Brown recipe.

Ingredients

6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
4 ounces dried plums (which is a nice way of saying “prunes” I used cranberries and it added a little tart to it)
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup honey (I used a basswood honey that adds a slight minty flavor to it)
1 cup coarse sugar (although I used vanilla sugar)

Directions

Put the almonds, prunes (or cranberries), apricots, and figs into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 20 to 25 times or until the fruit and nuts are chopped into small pieces, but before the mixture becomes a ball.

Combine the powdered sugar, toasted anise seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, ground cardamom, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the nut and fruit mixture and the honey and mix using gloved hands until well combined.

Scoop the mixture into 1/4-ounce portions and roll into balls. If serving immediately, roll in the coarse sugar and serve. If not serving immediately, put the balls on a cooling rack and leave uncovered until ready to serve. Roll in the coarse sugar prior to serving.

The Sugarplums may be stored on the cooling rack for up to a week. After a week, store in an airtight container for up to a month.

But I highly suggest that you immediately secure them in a closed container.

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