Who feels like cooking when you’re sick and tired?

20161217_205903_resized2

Nothing like comfort food in bed with your best pal, when you’re feeling sick and tired.

I’ve been sick since Thanksgiving. The usual winter head and chest cold that it seems everyone is suffering with right now. Lousy time for it, with the holidays bearing down. There are gifts to buy, cards to address, meals to plan. Who has the energy? I don’t. Not after working all week. Just trying to sit upright and get through the day is hard enough. I spent most of this week having enough energy left over to open a can of soup and box of crackers for dinner and adding an orange for dessert, in hopes of getting some real food in there somewhere.

So, when this weekend rolled around I felt like I needed to get some healthy, fresh vegetables in me, but all I craved was comfort food — and I still didn’t feel like spending any time cooking.

So, I split the difference and came up with some semi-healthy comfort food that was quick to make. Yesterday, following that comfort food craving, and not knowing what to eat for breakfast, I threw together a cheesy skillet quick-bread. I had that with dinner later — steamed fresh veggies and shrimp tossed with Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and Old Bay. This morning I did a fresh tomato and avocado melt on a baguette. In the spirit of the recipes on this blog, they were all cheap, quick and easy:


20161217_100428Cheesy Skillet Quick-Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. Bisquick Heart Smart mix
  • 1/2 milk (plus a splash to make it looser)
  • 1/2 c. or so grated sharp New York cheddar
  • Cast iron pan
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: Old Bay seasoning

Make the biscuit recipe on the box (above), and mix in grated cheese (it could probably handle more than I added, but this was my first try, so I didn’t go crazy with the cheese). The batter should be loose enough to spread into the skillet, so you may need to add a little milk to thin it. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the skillet and start warming it on low. After the oil warms spread it around evenly with a paper towel. Put the batter in the pan and spread it to the edges. Cover the top with some more grated cheese. Cover. Keep the heat on low-medium. You don’t want to brown the bottom too much before the biscuit sets inside. Take a peek after 10-12 mins or more. If the top is set and the bottom is golden, turn off the heat. I have a toaster oven that can accommodate a pizza, so I put the whole skillet in the toaster oven (the door was open a bit from the handle). Leave it in a few mins to brown the top. You can garnish the bread with a dusting of Old Bay if you want to add a little spice. Serve warm with butter.

20161217_205903_resizedQuick Veggie/Shrimp Bowl

  • Fresh broccoli and stems cut in 1-inch pieces
  • Grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • Frozen shelled/deveined precooked shrimp
  • Olive oil
  • Pecorino Romano and/or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper (try McCormick’s Peppercorn Medley)
  • Dried basil
  • Old Bay seasoning

You can make this with any amounts of veggies and shrimp, depending on how many you are serving. Cut broccoli into nice chunky pieces, halve the tomatoes. Use a sauté/frying pan, not a deep pot to steam in. Put a 1/2-inch to 1-inch of water in the pan. Bring it to a boil. Drop in veggies. Let them get a little crispy/soft before you drop in the frozen shrimp. Cover and steam just a few minutes until all are heated through and the broccoli is softened, not overcooked, still bright green. Drain, retaining a little of the steaming water. Put veggies and shrimp and a little of the steaming water in a bowl. Toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, basil, Old Bay. Toss with a handful of the cheeses until everything is coated. Garnish with a sprinkling of more cheese. Serve with the warmed Cheesy Skillet Quick-Bread.

20161218_101258-1Tomato/Avocado Melt

  • Crusty baguette
  • Tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
  • Half an avocado
  • Sharp New York cheddar
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

This is a sort of healthier modification on one of my favorite comfort-food deli breakfast sandwiches (Toasted bagel, cream cheese, tomato, melted cheese).

Slice and partially toast the baguette with a little butter. Top with tomato, season with salt and pepper. Top with sliced cheddar. Put back in toaster-oven to fully toast the baguette and melt the cheese. Remove from oven and top with fresh, sliced avocado. Season to taste.

I hope you get through the holidays without getting the winter crud, but if you do get short of time or energy I hope you enjoy some of these easy, quick and comforting recipes.

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and Chow for Now!

 

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Fight or Flight? I can’t make up my mind

feminism_symbolI am a bleeding heart liberal. So sue me. I grew up with the Vietnam War and civil rights protests on the nightly news. I marched on Washington in the 1970s with my mother to support the ERA and attended a truly integrated high school where we got along for the most part and I went to the senior prom with a black friend. Which, according to another friend, “shocked the shit out of everybody.” Who knew? I didn’t notice. I was having a great time with a great guy.

Over the years, I have nurtured my left-wing righteous indignation by walking picket lines as a Hollywood camera assistant in the 1980s, and marching on Washington, again, in the 1990s in a NOW pro-choice rally. As a community reporter in the 2000s I worked at a newspaper that kept issues such as poverty and homelessness, AIDS and healthcare disparities in front of suburban readers. Last year, I attended a unity rally in front of Baltimore’s City Hall following the Freddie Gray unrest. And over the years I supported homeless shelters and food banks and other charities with money and donations.

But lately, besides keeping up what little charity I can afford and sounding off on Facebook and Twitter and on this blog, I feel like my righteous indignation is in need of more righteous action to back up my big mouth.

gasmaskBut since the election of DJT,avengers2 I have vacillated between 1.) shopping for gas masks on amazon and trolling Twitter hashtags to find an angry protest to join and 2.) not giving a fuck about anything and binge watching “The Avengers.”

I try to live my values every day, but lately that righteous indignation and anger feels like a lot of hot air from my hot head that doesn’t make any difference at all. I suppose that’s called apathy, something that throughout my life I have disdained and tried hard not to succumb to.

This morning, as is usual on Saturday mornings in my Randallstown neighborhood, a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking. I don’t mind answering the door and talking to them, and I always do – although they seem particularly adept at catching me in the middle of breakfast when I’m still in my nightclothes. This morning a very earnest, tall young man of about 13 or so was at the door, holding a pamphlet and asking, “Can the dead really live again?” I didn’t answer his question, and told him Miss Peggy always comes and drops the magazines off to me, but that I’d take his pamphlet. I’m writing a novel right now (or trying to in my apathetic state) that has dead people in it, so the question interests me. I bid them a good day, and closed the door.

Inside the pamphlet was the Bible quote, “There is going to be a resurrection” (Acts 24:15 New World Translation). And I thought of all the people out there, like me. Bleeding heart liberals (go ahead, laugh if you want to) who have spent their lives trying to stand up against injustice and inequality and unfairness and hate, who are feeling kind of dead inside right now. Who see a rise in hate crimes and the specter of the KKK emerging from the shadows – while billionaire businessmen, women who support privatizing public education and xenophobes fill DJT’s cabinet – and wonder what the fuck? Nothing I have done in my life made any difference. So, what’s the point of fighting anymore?

But, being the battered optimist that I am (as well as one who ascribes to no religion) I am taking that quote, “There is going to be a resurrection,” as a fortune-cookie, hopeful moment, and am going to try to believe that all of those things I believe in and that I thought this country was moving toward will rise up, will be resurrected in the hearts and minds of people and that living those values of justice, equality, fairness and humanism do make a difference. Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking for a protest to join. Even though I may need to grab my Avengers DVDs and retreat from time to time…

 woman_of_the_apocalypse_hortus_deliciarum“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”  

(Revelation 12:14 – King James Version)

Cheap caviar, avocado and yogurt omelet


win_20161119_09_15_33_pro-2I love caviar. Grocery store caviar. More specifically, cheap grocery store caviar. I love the fishy saltiness hitting my tongue and the little spheres popping in my mouth. I have never eaten real, high-end caviar – that I remember – who knows if I’d like it.

I don’t eat it very often – even though I love it and at my local Giant grocery store it’s less than $10.00 a pot.

Last night I had dinner at a friend’s house and wanted to take something special to add to our appetizer/cocktail hour. We were going to have smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers on Wasa Crispbread with our martinis, and I thought caviar would be a perfect addition.

win_20161119_11_20_03_pro-2So, on the way into the city, I ran into Giant and picked up a 2 oz. jar of Romanoff Black Lumpfish Caviar for $7.49. Regularly priced at $8.49, I got a dollar discount with my discount card. Not bad for a fun, cheap treat.

We had a great dinner and my friend sent me home with what was left of the caviar. I thought I’d make scrambled eggs and caviar for breakfast. She also gave me what was left of a really tasty sourdough baguette by La Brea Bakery in L.A. (which are available at stores in Baltimore, fyi, including Giant, Eddie’s and Shoppers).

But this morning I started thinking of a better way to utilize the leftover caviar. An omelet. With fresh spinach? Broccoli? No, broccoli would be too strong a flavor and I didn’t think it would go with the caviar. Spinach didn’t excite me. I opened the fridge and spied half a fresh avocado and some yogurt. Perfect, I thought.

I had eaten half the avocado yesterday – and it was the weirdly, sweetest, creamiest avocado I had ever tasted. I thought that would go well with the sea-salty caviar. The yogurt, my favorite Dannon Plain Whole Milk Yogurt (if you’ve never tried whole-milk yogurt, do. It has a completely different flavor from nonfat or lowfat), would complement the sweet and the salty with a little tang. I suppose you could use sour cream, but try plain whole-milk yogurt in anything you would normally use sour cream in – I think you’ll like the cooler, lighter, tangier flavor. The rest was easy.

Caviar, avocado, yogurt omelet

  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 1 T milk
  • Butter
  • ½ fresh avocado
  • Fresh plain whole-milk yogurt
  • Caviar
  • Baguette
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Serves one

I made the omelet by beating two large, fresh eggs with about a tablespoon of milk, melting about a tablespoon of butter in my small frying pan, and cooking the omelet over medium-low heat, lifting the sides all around to let the uncooked eggs run off the top and go under to cook. I don’t like browned omelets, as I think cooking too quickly and browning changes the delicate flavor and makes the eggs tougher.  In the meantime, I used a tablespoon to scoop out the avocado in one hunk, then sliced it thinly. Once the omelet was cooked through, but not browned, on half the omelet I layered a couple tablespoons of yogurt, a thin layer of caviar and the avocado slices, then folded the omelet over. (Be careful with the caviar – use it sparingly to achieve flavor without overwhelming the omelet with the fishiness.)

I served the omelet with slices of the sourdough baguette that I buttered and then toasted in the toaster oven until they were browned and the butter bubbly. As you know, I usually have breakfast with a pot of strong Irish tea (Barry’s or Bewley’s)

This was a delicious way to use the leftover caviar, and may inspire me to use caviar in more of my cooking, when I need that kind of big, intense flavor to complement a dish.

Chow for Now!

 

 

Let down, or left out? Try these post-election leftovers

Cheer up! Campaign promises already breaking

Feeling let down or left out after the election? While putting together some delicious Cauliflower Parmesan Spinach Crepes from this week’s leftovers, I found I am feeling better about things this morning.

Within 48 hours of the election, the president elect is already backing off on a number of his main campaign promises. Destroy Obamacare? Oh, let’s keep some of it. Appoint a special prosecutor to indict Hillary? Oh, I’m not thinking about that too much. Drain the D.C. swamp? Oh, I think I’ll fill my team with political insiders like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and the head of the RNC. Kick out all undocumented immigrants? Oh, maybe just a few. How long will his supporters remain his supporters as he moves from far right to center? From rabid autocrat to a soft-centered negotiator? Maybe we’ll see them joining the anti-Trump protests as a few more promises evaporate.

As conservative NYT columnist David Brooks opined this week:

“Trump’s main problem in governing is not going to be some fascistic ideology; his main problem is going to be his own attention span, ignorance and incompetence. If he’s left to bloviate while others are left to run the country and push through infrastructure plans, maybe things won’t be disastrous…Trump’s bigotry, dishonesty and promise-breaking will have to be denounced. We can’t go morally numb. But he needs to be replaced with a program that addresses the problems that fueled his ascent.

After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think.”

Oh, YIPPIE! So, in the spirit of turning around those feelings of being let down or left out – try these delicious crepes made from leftovers.

win_20161107_18_14_55_proI used leftover Cauliflower Parmesan that I made this week from a NYT recipe.  But you can use any kind of leftovers to fill your crepes.

This morning I made the crepes from a simple Better Homes and Gadens New Cook Book recipe in my recent blog post, First-time Crepes and Halloween Treats.

As the first crepe was about finished browning in the pan, I sprinkled a little shredded Mozzarella cheese over it and let that melt. At the same time, I was reheating my Cauliflower Parmesan and a handful or two of fresh spinach on a plate in the microwave. After sliding the crepe onto a warmed plate, I scooped a couple tablespoons of the hot Cauliflower Parmesan and the wilted spinach into the center of the crepe and rolled it up. Quickly I made another crepe and repeated with the hot fillings. For dessert, make another set of crepes and fill with your favorite flavors such as Nutella, berries, or as I did in my Halloween blog – melted Reese’s chocolate-peanut butter cups. And the crepes are also great plain, just sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

win_20161112_09_11_42_proMmmm. Comfort food for uncomfortable times.

Chow for Now!

Turn Back the Clock America? No Thanks.

russell-campbell-largeAs I turned back the clocks for daylight saving time today, I listened to voters on NPR talking about the election. As we have so often heard before in this election from Trump supporters, one of the white women interviewed said she was voting for Donald Trump because she wanted to return to “the America we enjoyed when we were younger.” Challenged on this point by another white woman, a Hillary Clinton supporter who brought up poor treatment of women and minorities during that time, the Trump supporter responded that life was good back then, like on “Leave it to Beaver.” That’s what she wanted to see America return to.

Pressed again on the issue that America was not so great for women and non-whites, another Trump supporter responded that eight years of President Obama had not helped black Americans and the racial divide was worse – that Democrats hadn’t done anything to help minorities and that Trump was right on that point. She didn’t mention Republican obstructionists, white backlash toward immigration, or white fear of growing minority power that is fueling that racial divide.

The idea of “turning back the clock” to a fantasy-land, “Leave it to Beaver” America (that never actually existed) seems to me an amazing act of denial and self-delusion. Not only were civil rights and equal rights for minorities and women denied when I was growing up, when I was in high school and college the country had a murder rate much higher than it is today. More people lived in poverty and we know that millions – before President Obama – were unable to access healthcare whether because of pre-existing conditions, access or affordability. (Right – I know healthcare is a huge issue right now. Mine went way up too, people. But 20 MILLION MORE PEOPLE have healthcare. That is a positive I don’t care how you want to spin it. And we need to keep helping to insure people – and make the system work better – not return to denying people healthcare.)

Anyway – back to turning back the clocks. Below is a timeline of events that took place when I was a child that I do not want to see repeated by “turning back the clock” to “make America great again.” Witness recent uprisings over police brutality and shootings and it’s obvious we need to keep moving forward, not marching backward

As one of the Clinton supporters said in that interview on NPR this morning, “I don’t want to go back there. I want to go forward.”

So do I.

Don’t you?

Below are some highlights and lowlights in America’s Civil Rights struggle that show the level of civil demonstrations that influenced federal will and lawmaking that was necessary to help to begin to reverse entrenched, institutional discrimination. I’ve bolded the lowlights. These events occurred from the time I was 2 until I was 10, in 1968. I do not want to go back to the America of my childhood, to see America have to re-fight these struggles that were won with blood spilled and people killed – blacks and whites who died trying to better our country. The timeline is from the International Civil Rights Center & Museum website:

1960

FEB. 1, 1960

Four black university students from N.C. A&T University began a sit-in at a segregated F.W. Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. Although they were refused service, they were allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggered similar nonviolent protests throughout the South. Six months later, the original four protesters are served lunch at the same Woolworth’s counter. Student sit-ins would be an effective tactic throughout the South in integrating parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries and other public facilities.

MARCH 6, 1960

President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, prohibiting discrimination in federal government hiring on the basis of race, religion or national origin and establishing The President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, the EEOC. They were immediately directed to scrutinize and study employment practices of the United States government and to consider and recommend additional affirmative steps for executive departments and agencies.

APRIL 1960

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., providing young blacks with a more prominent place in the civil rights movement. The SNCC later grew into a more radical organization under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael (1966-1967) and H. Rap Brown (1967-1998). The organization changed its name to the Student National Coordinating Committee.

1962

OCT. 1, 1962

James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. President Kennedy sent 5,000 federal troops to contain the violence and riots surrounding the incident.

1963

JUNE 12, 1963

Mississippi’s NAACP field secretary, 37-year-old Medgar Evers, was murdered outside his home in Jackson, Miss. Byron De La Beckwith was tried twice in 1964, both trials resulting in hung juries. Thirty years later, he was convicted of murdering Evers.

AUG. 28, 1963

More than 250,000 people join in the March on Washington. Congregating at the Lincoln Memorial, participants listened as Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

SEPT. 15, 1963

Four young girls, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, attending Sunday school were killed when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupted in Birmingham, Ala., leading to the deaths of two more black youth.

1964

JAN. 23, 1964

The 24th Amendment abolished the poll tax, which had originally been instituted in 11 southern states. The poll tax made it difficult for blacks to vote.

MAY 4, 1964 (FREEDOM SUMMER)

The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was organized in 1964 by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of four civil rights organizations: the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE); the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The project was to carry out a unified voter registration program in the state of Mississippi. Both COFO and the Summer Project were the result of the “Sit-In” and “Freedom Ride” movements of 1960 and 1961, and of SNCC’s earlier efforts to organize voter registration drives throughout Mississippi.

The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) launched a massive effort to register black voters during what becomes known as the Freedom Summer. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) began sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. One of the first two groups of “Freedom Riders,” as they are called, encountered its first problem two weeks later when a mob in Alabama sets the riders’ bus on fire. The program continued and by the end of the summer, more than 1,000 volunteers, black and white, participated.

CORE also sent delegates to the Democratic National Convention as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to protest – and attempt to unseat – the official all-white Mississippi contingent.

JULY 2, 1964

President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion or national origin and transform American society. The law allowed the federal government to enforce desegregation and prohibits discrimination in public facilities, in government and in employment. The “Jim Crow” laws in the South were abolished, and it became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing or hiring. Enforcement powers were initially weak, but they grew over the years, and later programs, such as affirmative action, were made possible by the Act. Title VII of the Act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

AUG. 4, 1964

The bodies of three civil-rights workers – two white, one black – were found in an earthen dam. James E. Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 21; and Michael Schwerner, 24, had been working to register black voters in Mississippi, and on June 21, went to investigate the burning of a black church. They were arrested by the police on speeding charges, incarcerated for several hours, and released after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, who murdered them.

1965

FEB. 21, 1965 – MALCOLM X Assassinated

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Neb., on May 19, 1925, this world-renowned black nationalist leader was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan on the first day of National Brotherhood Week. A Black Muslim Minister, revolutionary black freedom fighter, civil rights activist and for a time the national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, he famously spoke of the need for black freedom “by any means necessary.” Disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad’s teachings, Malcolm formed his own organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity and the Muslim Mosque Inc. In 1964, he made a pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city, Mecca, and adopted the name El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz.

MARCH 1965

Selma to Montgomery Marches

The Selma to Montgomery marches, which included Bloody Sunday, were actually three marches that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement.

MARCH 7, 1965

Bloody Sunday

Blacks began a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights, but were stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by a police blockade in Selma, Ala. State troopers and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, some mounted on horseback, awaited them. In the presence of the news media, the lawmen attacked the peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs, tear gas and bull whips, driving them back into Selma.

The incident was dubbed “Bloody Sunday” by the national media, with each of the three networks interrupting telecasts to broadcast footage from the horrific incident. The march was considered the catalyst for pushing through the Voting Rights Act five months later.

MARCH 9, 1965

Ceremonial Action within 48 hours, demonstrations in support of the marchers, were held in 80 cities and thousands of religious and lay leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, flew to Selma. He called for people across the country to join him. Hundreds responded to his call, shocked by what they had seen on television.

However, to prevent another outbreak of violence, marchers attempted to gain a court order that would prohibit the police from interfering. Instead of issuing the court order, Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson issued a restraining order, preventing the march from taking place until he could hold additional hearings later in the week. On March 9, Dr. King led a group again to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they knelt, prayed and to the consternation of some, returned to Brown Chapel. That night, a Northern minister who was in Selma to march, was killed by white vigilantes.

MARCH 21-25 1965 (Selma to Montgomery March)

Under protection of a federalized National Guard, voting rights advocates left Selma on March 21, and stood 25,000 strong on March 25 before the state capitol in Montgomery. As a direct consequence of these events, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing every American 21 years old and over the right to register to vote.

AUG. 10, 1965

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting were made illegal.

SEPT. 24, 1965

President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 to enforce affirmative action for the first time because he believed asserting civil rights laws were not enough to remedy discrimination. It required government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment. This represented the first time “affirmative action” entered the federal contracting lexicon and sought to ensure equality of employment. (Presidential Executive Order 11375 extends this language to include women on October 13, 1968.)

1967

JUNE 12, 1967

In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting interracial marriage was unconstitutional. Sixteen states that still banned interracial marriage at the time were forced to revise their laws.

AUG. 30, 1967

Senate confirmed President Lyndon Johnson’s appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the first African American Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after he served for two years as a Solicitor General of the United States.

1968

APRIL 4, 1968

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at age 39, was shot as he was standing on the balcony outside his hotel room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Escaped convict and committed racist James Earl Ray was convicted of the crime. The networks then broadcast President Johnson’s statement in which he called for Americans to “reject the blind violence,” yet cities were ignited from coast to coast.

http://www.sitinmovement.org/history/america-civil-rights-timeline.asp

First-time crepes and Halloween treats

crepe-halloween

After a savory crepe, I was craving something sweet. Read on to find out what filled my dessert crepe…

I love eggs. And I love making big egg breakfasts on the weekend when I have time to try something new and time to savor and enjoy them with a pot of strong Irish tea and my favorite music, or NPR radio show, or a good book propped up on the table next to  my plate.

This morning I was craving something savory, but I had a big spinach, mushroom and tomato omelette with grits and rye toast yesterday at Double-T Diner – Baltimore’s iconic diner chain. So, I didn’t want to make an omelette, and I am trying not to eat too much bread or cheese – both of which I love – so I didn’t want to have eggs with toast or pancakes. I thought about making a gooey, veggie quesadilla, but ruled that out because of the cheese.

So I decided to try making crepes, which I have never made before. I guess I’ve never tried because it seemed too intimidating. When I was a kid there was a place called the Magic Pan Creperie in Columbia, Md. that featured center stage an awesome automated crepe-making machine that had multiple pans it would dip into the crepe batter and (if I remember correctly) cook over open gas jets. Crepes and fondue were a big thing in the 1970s. You could buy special crepe pans (to be used only for crepes!) and everyone had a fondue set in their kitchen.

I think all of that specialty stuff, especially the “magic pans” made me too intimidated to make crepes. I don’t have a special crepe pan and thought I would not be able to make them thin enough or cook them correctly. But this morning it occurred to me that my nice, heavy, Thomas Rosenthal nonstick pan might work – if I could find a simple recipe.

win_20161030_11_13_49_proI pulled out my old favorite standby cookbook – the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. My old paperback one fell completely apart a few years ago and I picked up the hardback ring-bound 1996 version at Ukazoo Books – my favorite Baltimore used bookstore – for $3.99.

It had a simple crepe recipe, and I had fresh broccoli, grape tomatoes, mushrooms and a couple kinds of cheeses to use as fillers. (This is the recipe from the book with tips from me in parenthesis. I halved the recipe for myself.)

Crepes

  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

(Have your fillings handy, such as chopped steamed veggies, grated cheeses, or sweet fillings like Nutella, berries, or jam.)

Combine eggs, milk, flour, and salt. Beat till mixed well. Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet (I used my 8-incher); remove from heat. (I used butter, you can use oil – make sure it’s not too thick in the pan, but just coating it. I heated on medium like I would for pancakes, until the butter was bubbly and the pan heated through, but the butter wasn’t smoking or browning.) Spoon in 2 (or more) tablespoons batter; lift and tilt the skillet to spread batter. Return to heat; brown on one side only. (After the batter was set, I lifted the edge to see if it was getting golden, then I added a little shredded pepper jack cheese and some chopped broccoli, mushrooms and sliced grape tomatoes I had steamed in a separate small pot. When the crepe was golden, I folded both sides in and lifted it onto a plate. I only made two savory and one sweet, but if you’re making a bunch follow on…) Invert over paper towels; remove crepe. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet occasionally. Makes 18 crepes.

This recipe worked great and the crepes turned out thin, with a nice bite, while a little crispy around the edges.

But after I had my savory breakfast crepes, I craved something sweet. “Man, I wish I had some Nutella!” I said. I thought about what if any kinds of chocolate I had in the house: Hershey’s syrup? Too thin. Halloween candy! I had two bags of candy bars. Kit Cats wouldn’t work… I couldn’t remember what the second bag was. I went into the living room where the bags are waiting, ready and opened, for Halloween night. Reese’s pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups. SCORE!

So, I opened one of the pumpkin-shaped, chocolate and peanut butter cups and cut it in thin slices. When making the next crepe, I waited until the crepe was set, then placed the slices of Reese’s on the crepe, waited for the crepe to brown and the chocolate and peanut butter to melt, folded it over and lifted it onto my plate.

Wow – delicious! One of these smaller pumpkin shaped cups was just the right amount for the 8-inch crepe, melting into a nice thin filling to match the thin crepe. For all of you who like that whole salty-sweet thing, this is your next Halloween Treat: Reese’s chocolate-peanut-butter crepes. Happy Halloween!

Chow for Now!

Follow me @Newzcook

Thinking, Cooking, Writing and Fear

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Learning from my creative cooking process to benefit my creative writing process

If you’ve ever wondered why my blog and Twitter handle is Newzcook, it’s because I started this blog when I was an underpaid/overworked community newspaper reporter who loved journalism and cooking on the cheap. The original full blog title was Newzcook: sharp talk/cheap meals.

I think a lot when I cook, and often find metaphors and life lessons in the cooking process. I wrote a paper when I was a grad student about making chocolate Easter eggs and working out the meanings of pieces I was studying. My writing teacher called the paper original because I worked things out while talking about my process.

This morning, while trying to figure out what to make for breakfast with no eggs, bread, tortillas, cheese, or milk in the house, I realized how long I considered what I had on hand (including fresh tomatoes, leftover prosciutto, canned vegetables, scone mix, dried cranberries, and oats) and what to make from it. I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings, when I can have a leisurely breakfast of a loaded omelet and a freshly baked something, instead of the usual cereal or scrambled eggs on the run. So, the no-eggs put a monkey wrench in the works.

While I was leaning against the kitchen sink, deliberating over what to make with what was on hand, it occurred to me that the amount of time, energy, dedication and careful, creative thinking I was doing around my spare cupboard was leaps and bounds above and beyond the kind of time and attention I have been giving lately to my writing – to which I often proclaim I am dedicated.

Not only was I struck by the seriousness of my creative cooking process – I also realized that I had no doubt that after engaging in this serious creative process that the results would be interesting, fulfilling, satisfying and successful. In other words – I had no fear of that creative process, no doubt about my creative ability, and absolute faith that my finished product would be good, if not great. I did not second-guess my process, second-guess my ability. I had complete confidence. I was interested and excited about what I was going to come up with, as there is always the element of surprise in this sort of on-the-fly cooking.

Of course, you could argue that cooking and writing are two different processes that produce different results for different reasons and audiences. And elicit different responses.

But here’s what I came to:

I cook to satisfy and please myself. It is an enjoyable creative process that fulfills me, sensually and intellectually and makes me happy. When I finish cooking and eating a successful meal – I am not only satiated, I am proud of myself. I love the surprise of a well-conceived and well-executed meal. I take pictures of the food. I blog about the food. I am a great admirer and marketer of my cooking.

Now – read the above paragraph with the cooking words replaced with writing words:

I write to satisfy and please myself. It is an enjoyable creative process that fulfills me, sensually and intellectually and makes me happy. When I finish writing and editing a successful story – I am not only satiated, I am proud of myself. I love the surprise of a well-conceived and well-executed story. I share the story. I submit the story. I am a great admirer and marketer of my writing.

That is where I want to be. I want to approach my creative writing process with the same zeal, abandon and confidence with which I approach my food preparation process – with no fear. The next time I sit down to write, I’ll really be cooking.

For those who are curious (Kris – I know you are!), what did I come up with this morning for breakfast?

I made scones from the scone mix, but in order to feel better about eating, basically, a ball of white dough, I added a handful of oats and some of those dried cranberries. But what I did to fill the role of the lack of an omelet was so weird – I was shocked at how good it tasted:

Chop one large, farm-fresh tomato (you can’t beat Maryland farm-stand tomatoes in summer). Gently cut up an equal amount of canned yams (rinse and drain them). Tear up one slice of prosciutto. Melt about a tablespoon or two of butter in a small sauté pan. Add the tomatoes, yams and prosciutto. Let them sit a few minutes without stirring or tossing. Let the tomatoes and yams brown and caramelize a few minutes as the prosciutto releases a little fat and frizzles a little. Season with a little salt and cracked black pepper (I use low-sodium salt and McCormick Peppercorn Medley Grinder, which contains black, pink, white and green peppercorns, coriander and allspice – it is wonderfully fragrant). Toss gently – the goal is to not break up or mash the yams. Serve with the hot scones and butter and strong Irish tea (this morning it was Barry’s Gold Blend).

Now go write. It’ll be delicious.

Chow for now!