Friday, December 30, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- Arbor Farms Market


My very dear friend Marilyn has been encouraging me to stop by Arbor Farms Market - a small grocery store devoted to fresh, local, organic, wholesome foods at reasonable prices - to find a Frugal Floozie Friday meal. She and her partner, Seymour, often shop there to pick up a quick lunch since they live nearby.

So when I was in that neighborhood recently, and was hungry after running multiple errands, I took Marilyn's recommendation and treated myself to a nice take-out dinner.

There were so many lovely things to choose from in the prepared foods section! Everything was priced by the pound, so I could determine not only which item I wanted but also whether I wanted one that was more or less expensive, depending upon its size.

Hearty soups clamored for my attention, as did a variety of tempting sandwiches. There were several different salads to choose from; so I picked what seemed to be a small one with bright greens, red onion, dried cranberries, pecans and grated white cheddar for a mere $2.94. A less expensive salad would leave more room in my mandatory $5-or-less budget for dessert, after all. I know what's important!

Because as soon as I saw the Split Personality Trifle - layers of chocolate and vanilla puddings with dark chocolate cake crumbs - I knew it was going to come home with me. With the pudding costing $1.89, my total for dinner was going to be only $4.83 and include both nutrition and a treat. (I had salad dressings at home, so I didn't pick any of the offerings at the market; that also would have cost a bit more and put me over budget.)

And what a surprise when I opened the salad and placed it in a large bowl to coat it with dressing - it was enough to feed two people! I packed half of it away for the next day's lunch, and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh, crisp vegetables, the sweetness and the crunch ... a perfect combination of textures and flavors.

Dessert was utterly sublime - an ideal Snack Pack-sized individual serving that provided a truly luscious ending to my meal.

There are many ways to create a nutritious but still fun meal at Arbor Farms - sandwiches, soups, salads, chips, fruit, desserts, chocolates, and all sorts of other goodies are available throughout the store. And the staff is also ready to provide friendly assistance should you be overwhelmed by the multitude of options.

This was a great Frugal Floozie Friday deal!


Arbor Farms Market
2103 W. Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
734-996-8111


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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 of '11

It's that time of year again - time to review everything I've eaten or sipped in 2011 and determine which of the 1000 or so dishes (3 meals/day + beverages + treats - reheated repeats = ???) rose to the top of the food chain (ha!) and will make my Top Ten list.

Decisions are difficult enough for me when I merely have to sort through the myriad varieties of orange juice. Truly, these types of endeavors make my brain hurt because of all the permutations!

So imagine how overwhelming this annual project is, narrowing everything down to only ten selections while simultaneously remembering a couple of disappointingly bad meals (which I'm too nice to talk about publicly) and lingering deliriously over the particularly stellar ones ... well, I nearly become catatonic.

But enough of the meandering preamble! You want to know what made the cut, don't you? (Some of you may already have scrolled down without even bothering to read the introduction!) You want to reject my choices or cheer along with them.

Without further babbling and in no particular order - with the exception of the #1 spot, which I knew would be the winner the very moment I tasted it this summer (even announcing this to my dining companion, who heartily agreed) - here is my Top 10 list for 2011:

10. I was only permitted one taste of the Chocolate Hazelnut French toast at the Bomber, with thanks to Jeremy for treading that fine line between wanting to share the joy and wanting to hoard the goodies all for himself! But that one taste was enough to know that this was an absolutely luscious and decadent treat. Of course, how can you go wrong with divine Nutella, warm and gooey as it oozes out of golden toasted, battered bread? I'm not even sure I would put syrup on my own serving - I might treat it as the dessert-like creation that it is and douse it with whipped cream instead. Either way, this was a fabulous breakfast!

9. The Garlic Parmesan Fries at Chicago Reds are amazing! Here's what I wrote about them in my original post: "These were as close to perfection as fries might possibly come - golden, crisp, hot, salty, garlicky, cheesy, but none of these attributes was overdone. The consistency was ideal, and the flavorings were exceptional." And I wouldn't change a word of it.

8. My Curried Rhubarb Chicken is one of the very best dishes I've made. I debated whether to include any of my own recipes here; but I'm very proud of this, so why not? I also received some lovely compliments from those who tried the dish after it was posted: "I made this tonight and it was awesome! The brown sugar caramelized on top of the chicken and the rhubarb dissolved into a super-yummy sauce." "(We) had your Curried Rhubarb Chicken. I felt like it was a dish from a fancy restaurant .... We loved it!" I'll look forward to spring not only for the warmer weather, the flowers, and finally seeing grass once more when the filthy remnants of snow melt, but also because rhubarb will be in season and I can make this dish again.

7. Whether using Flip Flop Wines Moscato to glaze a cake, enjoying it with a light dinner, or sipping it after a meal, I think it's just lovely. And I'm not alone: Wine Enthusiast magazine has named Flip Flop Moscato one of its "Best Buys." I originally tried the Moscato because it was sent to me for marketing purposes, with no promise of a review but assurances that it would be mentioned whenever I used the wine in a recipe. (I never want anyone to think I'm endorsing an item only because I've received a freebie, so I refuse to do product reviews.) But I like this wine so much that I now buy it for myself ... how 'bout that?

6. I attended a fabulous wine tasting sponsored by The Produce Station and hosted by the Alley Bar. Some wonderful foods were provided to accompany the wines and to help cleanse our palates between tastings. At my table, the charming offering was a plate of sliced baguettes from Detroit's Avalon International Breads and a really lovely cheese. In my post about the event, I described the Pyramid Pointe goat's milk cheese from Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery as "slightly tart and creamier than butter." The creamery's website gives further detail: "Pyramid Pointe is a soft-ripened cheese made from pasteurized goat's milk. It has a pyramid shape with a natural grey/white rind which is blackened with ash .... The flavor is mild with a sharp lemony finish." It was wonderful!

5. I spoke at Temple Beth Emeth's annual Sisterhood DAMES Dinner, and had a fabulous time! I made new friends, and ate an extraordinary meal prepared by chefs Burt Steinberg and Ron Philipp. The Asian cole slaw, with a light cilantro-lime dressing, was lovely; the brownies were rich and decadent. But the Chicken Franchese - a lightly breaded chicken breast topped with a sauce comprised of beurre blanc and Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, red peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms - shone beyond any of the other delicious dishes. The flavors were explosive and vibrant, some more prominent while others added depth; the sauce was slightly tart, creamy, and an exceptional enhancement to the fork-tender chicken. I wish I could simply send you to a restaurant and tell you to order this dish; instead, you'll just have to hire Burt and Ron to cater a party for you!

4. I haven't written about this one yet, because Jeremy and I visited just 3 days before the place closed for the season (it will reopen on February 1). But the root beer at Bill's Drive-In, on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti, was exceptional and simply had to be included here! The soda is homemade, and is reminiscent of previous incarnations you may have enjoyed; but it is so far beyond any others in taste that you'll hardly believe that they can all be called "root beer." There's not too much fuzz or fizz, and the flavor is incredibly rich. Jeremy's initial reaction says it all: "Holy s---! This is, like, the best root beer I've ever had in my life! It's amazing!" (With many thanks to the wonderful Mary Catherine Smith of WEMU for the recommendation.)

3. The chocolate-glazed orange cake that I adapted from a recipe on the back of a note card I'd bought at The Andy Warhol Museum was just exceptional! It was unbelievably moist, the flavor was bright and vibrant, and the rich chocolate glaze was utterly decadent. It would be an ideal dessert to serve in winter, when oranges are plentiful as we wait for the return of berries and other summer fruits. And how perfect would it be with a cup of cocoa, particularly on a cold, snowy day? I absolutely loved this cake!

2. The pierogi at my BFF Wendy's family Easter feast represented a 3-day labor of love, and were truly extraordinary! There was an enormous pile of the beautiful, golden treats which were filled with either sauerkraut, cheese, or prunes. And I can personally vouch for each variety, although the prune pierogi were my absolute favorites with their sweetness and a hint of spice. Not one of those measly 3" pierogi that you find in the grocery store was anywhere in sight ... pfffft! Each of these was at least twice that size, and the fillings were all homemade in addition to the dough having been mixed and rolled and formed by hand. I have already invited myself back for next year's holiday celebration, and would love to join in the pierogi-making party, too!

And who won the top spot?

What is the very best dish I've eaten all year long, the one that makes me smile and sigh with longing just to think of it???

1. The Churro Sundae at Frita Batidos, the Cuban-influenced eatery run by Eve Aronoff.


I can still conjure the fragrance of the beautiful fried pastries - slightly citrus, mingled with warm spices. I vividly remember the contrast between the slight crunch of the churros' exterior, coarse with a coating of sugar crystals, vs. the tender softness of the interior. The churros themselves were extraordinary, and yet they were remarkably enhanced when dipped into the creaminess of melting ice cream. The aromas, the textures, the flavors ... truly, this dish was superlative.

So, that's it for 2011. On Sunday, a brand new year of eating begins!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fruit and Cheese Tidbits


The holiday season hasn't ended yet, even if we're all starting to normalize a bit after the chaos of shopping and wrapping and cooking and baking for Christmas. New Year's Eve is Saturday night; presumably you're either hosting a party and need to feed your guests, or you've perhaps been asked to bring a contribution to someone else's party.

Even if you have no glamorous plans to dress up and sip champagne at midnight, you might still want to make your evening a bit festive with a special treat. And so, regardless of how you plan to welcome 2012 - and no matter how busy you may be with work, houseguests, or anything else - I've got the perfect recipe.

Except that there isn't even really a recipe for this, it's so ridiculously easy! Yet these little tidbits are nutritious, they complement any beverage (alcoholic or not), and people of all ages love them.

May the new year bring you much happiness and many blessings!

Fruit and Cheese Tidbits

fruit: grapes, berries, kiwi slices, pineapple chunks, etc.
cheese cubes
froofy toothpicks

Skewer a piece of fruit with a toothpick, then anchor the toothpick in a cube of cheese. Place your masterpiece onto a serving tray. Continue until you either run out of ingredients, trays, or time.

That's it. Truly, that's it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Burek (Spiced Beef Egg Rolls)


I'm working on a review of the lovely cookbook Ma Baseema: Middle Eastern Cooking with Chaldean Flair for the Washtenaw Jewish News. So, of course, I have to cook a number of recipes from it - just doing my due diligence!

The problem with this mission is that there are so, so many recipes that I want to prepare. But since Chanukkah began last Tuesday and doesn't end until tonight, a recipe using oil only seemed fitting for continued festivities.

And so I looked for a recipe that would not only let me try a new treat, but one which would also be easy to make in the midst of my various holiday preparations. How fabulous, then, to make Beef Egg Rolls from the Iraqi Christian culinary tradition and serve them for a Jewish celebration!

The original recipe didn't call for the allspice, but I thought it would make a really nice addition to the ground beef filling, both for flavor and fragrance. And I was right, I'm happy to say! Jeremy and I devoured these, hot and crisp and delicious as they were freshly fried.


Spiced Beef Egg Rolls
(Slightly adapted from a recipe for Burek by Margaret Butti)

3/4 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon allspice
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 cups oil, for frying
10 spring roll wrappers

In a large skillet, brown the beef; drain, then add the onion, salt, pepper, allspice and parsley. Cook until the onion is translucent, then place mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil until very hot.

Meanwhile, prepare the egg rolls: lay one wrapper onto a countertop. Place <1/4 cup beef filling onto the center of the wrapper.


Fold the sides over the filling.


Roll the edge closest to you over once.


Fold the portion of dough closest to you over the filling, then roll up the rest of the way. Brush the last portion of dough with a bit of water to help it adhere when the egg roll is fully rolled. Continue with the remaining wrappers and filling.


Cook 3-4 egg rolls at a time for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel, continuing until all of the egg rolls are cooked.

Makes 10 egg rolls.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Red Chorizo Chili and an Invitation


Come join the frivolity at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's annual Chili Cook-Off! It's being held on Sunday, February 12 from 12-3 p.m. at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. They're looking for more participants, and now is the time to sign up if you'd like to be a competitor.

This is one of the best events I go to, with lots of food, fun, festivity, a bit of foolishness ... and beer! Chili and beer - what else do you need on a cold winter afternoon?

So register to bring a large pot of your very best chili, as well as some festive decor for your table (I used mardi gras beads strung with rubber chickens last year), and compete with the best chili artisans we have to offer in this area.

Come show off for the judges ... 'cause I'm one of them!

Show me what you've got! Vegetarian chili with lots of vegetables? Chili made with beans or without - the never-ending debate? Chili made with chicken or pork? Chili that will sear my lipstick off? Chili that's thick enough to eat off a corn chip? Chili with a secret ingredient? C'mon - bring it!

If you'd like to get registered as a contestant, email Suzi at manager@a2ct.org. She's wonderful - she'll offer you a hearty welcome and send you all the information you need.

If you're not up for the challenge of competing but want to attend, mingle and schmooze, you're more than welcome. You can come to the cook-off and buy samples to support the cause, but there's no need to make reservations for that part. Just be sure you put it on your calendar now, so you don't forget.

The Cook-Off is loud and it's lots of fun - go email Suzi and get registered!

And in the meantime, here's a great recipe to warm you on a cold evening and inspire your own visions of award-winning chili. Jeremy thinks it's the best chili I've ever made; good thing I'm judging this year and not competing with this entry, huh?


Red Chorizo Chili

1/4 pound fresh chorizo
3/4 pound ground beef
1 small yellow pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 large green onions, chopped
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 ounces tomato paste
6 ounces chili sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies
generous splashes cayenne pepper sauce
1/2 cup beer
miscellaneous accompaniments (sour cream, cheese, corn chips, etc.)

In a large saucepan, brown the chorizo and ground beef over medium heat; drain, then return to saucepan. Add yellow pepper, all 3 types of onions, corn, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin seed and salt; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to medium-low; cook for 20 minutes.

The chili is great served immediately, but - of course! - even better if you can wait a day or so to let the flavors blend.

Serves 4-6.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- Maize and Blue Deli

Ever since we watched the "Man v. Food" episode in which host Adam Richman visited Ann Arbor, Jeremy has wanted to try the fabulous Reuben that was featured. So we recently headed down to the Maize and Blue Deli, today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature, to indulge in a hearty lunch.

Because my brain is a sieve and I couldn't remember which of the seven - yes, seven! - Reuben varieties we were supposed to pay homage to, we ordered the classic Coach's Reuben: "corned beef, Switzerland Swiss, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on grilled sourdough rye." It only cost $8.25, well within our mandatory $5 per person (or less) budget since we planned to share the sandwich.

The menu is extensive, and the deli was packed on the afternoon we visited; but the service was unbelievably friendly and welcoming, and our sandwich was made very quickly and brought to our table ... the last two seats available, which Jeremy had nabbed as I placed the order.

The Reuben was very generous, but thankfully could still be held and eaten without the contents spilling everywhere. The corned beef was sliced to shaved-thin perfection, and there was a perfect balance of meat to sauerkraut and dressing - proportions matter greatly in this sandwich, after all. (Too much dressing makes it slippery, too much sauerkraut overpowers the tender meat.) And the bread was lightly toasted, leaving it still tender within its crisp exterior.

If he hadn't been on a Frugal Floozie excursion with me, Jeremy would certainly have eaten the entire sandwich himself - 20-year-old males are the secret weapon for someone who is immersed in food in order to write about new recipes and restaurants on a continual basis! But he also told me that the half-sandwich was actually very filling. We'd planned to spend the rest of the afternoon trolling our way through downtown in search of future Friday posts, but it was quite some time before either of us could manage to think about eating again.

There are lots of great sandwiches and other goodies at the Maize and Blue Deli, and the sandwiches are so large that they can easily be shared without going over the $5 Frugal Floozie Friday budget and without going hungry. And isn't this the best time to go, while all the students are away from campus for vacation???

Maize and Blue Deli
1329 S. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
734-996-0533


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doughnut Delights


If celebrating Chanukkah grants a girl permission to eat fried foods, then bring on the doughnuts!

Now to you, these adorable little treats might look like simple doughnut holes drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with coconut; but to me, they have much more significance.

Let me tell you a story ....

In July, 2006, I separated from my now-ex-husband. I went into super frugal mode, anticipating legal fees and limited access to bank accounts and such. So while I was at the grocery store one day, I bought a box of day-old doughnut holes for 50 cents, figuring that they couldn't be too bad.

They were bad. They were very stale.

But I wasn't going to waste food - nope. So I tried to reinvent them.

I dunked the doughnuts into chocolate and then rolled them into toasted coconut. They were like truffles! And the firmness of the stale treats kept them from crumbling in the chocolate, while the chocolate helped to forgive some of the firmness.

The transformed doughnuts holes were a huge success!

And then I read that Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which holds regular contests with varying themes, was seeking hand-held desserts. Hmmmm .... I skewered the doughnuts holes, gave them a name, and sent the recipe in to BHG.

And you know what? A few months later, I received a letter from the magazine. My ridiculous little stale doughnuts dunked into chocolate had been modified very slightly, but were still awarded an Honorable Mention! And, in addition to the recipe being featured in the magazine, I also won a cash prize ... $250.

As the Psychedelic Furs sing in "Love My Way": "You can never win or lose if you don't run the race!"

Doughnut Delights

2/3 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons shortening
24 glazed doughnut holes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread coconut in shallow baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring two or three times (watch closely toward end of baking to prevent coconut from burning). Set aside to cool.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl place chocolate pieces and shortening. Microwave on 50 percent power (medium) for 1 to 2 minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring after each minute.

Arrange doughnut holes on tray or baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Spoon chocolate over each doughnut hole and sprinkle with coconut. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.

To serve, arrange doughnut holes on a platter. If desired, thread 2 doughnut holes on bamboo skewer; arrange spoke fashion on a platter. Decorate skewer ends with curling ribbon, choosing colors to fit the occasion.

Makes 24 doughnut holes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Provolone Fritto con Marinara (Fried Provolone)


Tonight is the second night of Chanukkah, and I could have happily served latkes (potato pancakes) - I adore them! But I wanted something different, something that celebrates both culinary traditions for this holiday: the oil and the dairy.

Most people, if they know anything about Chanukkah, think of it as a festival of fried foods commemorating the miracle of 1 day's worth of oil having burned for 8 days. But there is also the story of Judith feeding generous quantities of cheese to the captain of the enemy's army, to make him thirsty and encourage him to drink himself into a stupor. Once he fell asleep (or, rather, passed out), she cut off his head. The leaderless troops then retreated, and the Jews were ultimately able to rededicate the Temple with the miraculous oil that burned brightly for 7 extra days.

So I decided to fry some cheese in a bit of oil, thus doubling the celebration!

I dare to announce that this dish - Provolone Fritto [proh-voh-LOH-nay FREE-toh], topped with a marinara sauce - may even be more delicious than latkes! I know that's a radical statement to be making; but try this and see. It's crispy, it's gooey, it's flavorful ... truly, it's a fabulous dish!

Provolone Fritto con Marinara

1/3 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1 tablespoon pesto
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 8-ounce package sliced smoked Provolone (10 slices)
marinara sauce, heated
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Place the flour into a flat bowl (i.e.: a cereal bowl) and stir in 1 teaspoon of the salt along with the pepper.

Place the eggs into a flat bowl (i.e.: a cereal bowl) and mix in the pesto with a fork.

Place the bread crumbs, the Italian seasoning and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt onto a plate; combine well.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. One by one, dredge the slices of Provolone first in the flour, then in the eggs. Place them into the bread crumb mixture and make sure they're well coated.

Place 3-4 breaded slices into the skillet and cook for 3 minutes until the edges are turning golden and the cheese starts to puff a bit. Flip the cheese over.


Cook for another 2-3 minutes until both sides of the cheese are golden and crisp.

Continue frying the cheese until all of the ingredients are used up. Place onto a serving platter, top with marinara sauce and Parmesan.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reuben Latkes for the First Night of Chanukkah


Chanukkah, one of my very favorite holidays, begins at sundown tonight. It brings beautiful candlelight from the menorah, as well as permission to eat fried foods without (too much) guilt!

During the eight days of Chanukkah, Jews celebrate "the miracle of the oil" when a mere one day's worth of consecrated oil burned for eight days as the Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated in 165 B.C. In modern times, this has been turned into a tradition of eating latkes [LAHT-kuhs] - fried potato pancakes - and sufganiyot [soof-GAHN-yoht], which are similar to jelly doughnuts.

Now, don't get me wrong - I am not in any way averse to either fried potatoes or fried dough! But I kinda like to honor the traditions while tweaking them a bit.

So instead of making potato pancakes, I deconstructed Jeremy's favorite sandwich - the Reuben - and turned it into a little crispy fried patty of its own.

The familiar flavors shine through, and then they're even enhanced by the caramelization that comes from being fried until golden brown. You could also add a bit of shredded Swiss cheese to the batter; but that wouldn't be kosher (meat and dairy products can't be combined, according to the Jewish dietary laws). Although I don't keep kosher myself, I do try to respect that many of the people celebrating Chanukkah tonight do.

The Reuben latkes are also great for people - like Jeremy and my fabulous blogging buddy Michele - who follow a low-carb diet; there are only about 4 carbs per latke, as opposed to the gazillion that you'll find in the traditional potato variety.

Happy Chanukkah! Enjoy some fried foods over the next eight days, and don't make excuses - just celebrate right along with me!

Reuben Latkes

12 Triscuit crackers - Rye with Caraway Seeds
2 cups sauerkraut
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
4 ounces sliced deli corned beef, chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup oil
Thousand Island dressing, for serving

Crush the crackers into fine crumbs and place into a large bowl. Squeeze the sauerkraut to drain it thoroughly, then add it to the mixing bowl with the cracker crumbs. Stir in the onion, the corned beef, and the eggs; combine well.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls into the oil, making 4 latkes at a time. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side until browned, then remove from skillet to drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining oil and batter.

Makes 12 latkes. Serve hot, with Thousand Island dressing.

And don't forget to check out some other latke recipes for your Chanukkah celebration:

Curried Latkes with Peas

Jambalaya Latkes

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Eve Pork Pie




I'm a mutt: Austrian and Irish on my father's side, and Scottish, French and Canadian on my mother's.

Sometimes I think I must be related to half of Canada. My maternal grandfather's family can be traced to the late 17th century, when the first ancestor left France and set foot on this side of the Atlantic. For generation after generation, it shows that virtually every surviving male married, fathered perhaps 16 children, remarried after his wife died, and had another 13 or so children with his second wife. I violated the tradition by having only one child!

But I continue the French Canadian tradition of serving pork pie - known as Tourtière [tohr-tee-AIR] - on Christmas Eve.

Yes, I also eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve like every good Jewish person who's not celebrating the big holiday (even though I do still put up a tree and exchange gifts with loved ones). But everyone knows I'm always here for the food; enjoying two wildly different cuisines just makes things more fun!

This is not a family recipe handed down through the decades, but rather one I've cobbled together myself. My mother's version had great flavor; but the meat was very loose and fell out of the crust, which is typical of every other recipe I've seen for this classic dish. So in addition to tweaking the filling by combining both pork and sausage, I've also added egg to bind everything together.

I'm sharing this with you a bit early because you need to make the filling and chill it before placing it into the pie crust and baking it. According to lore, wives' tales, or whatever else you'd like to call it, the pie is also best if made, frozen, and then reheated. I'm not usually efficient enough to do that, and this pork pie is still a family favorite ... start your preparations a day ahead, serve it for Christmas Eve, and you'll love it anyway!

Tourtière (French Canadian Pork Pie)

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1 pound ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Spike Salt-Free All-Purpose Gourmet Natural Seasoning (a lovely marketing gift) or Mrs. Dash
2 large bay leaves
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 pie crusts (for a double-crust pie)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons water

In a large saucepan, combine the sausage and the pork; brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the onion, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and seasoning; cook until the onion is translucent, stirring frequently. Add the bay leaves and the chicken stock; bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Place filling into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Preheat oven to 425F. Roll out one crust and place it into a 9" pie dish.

Stir the 2 eggs into the pork filling, then spoon filling into the pie dish. Cover with the remaining crust, crimp edges, and cut slits into the top.

Beat the egg yolk with the water and brush the egg wash over the pie.

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 350F. Bake for 40-45 more minutes until the pie is golden. Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 8 servings.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- Ahmo's Gyros and Deli


On a recent Friday evening, I was left to amuse myself when the friend I'd had plans with went out of town unexpectedly on a business trip. Normally I'd have just prepared something simple, or perhaps eaten some leftovers. But on this particular night, I decided to pick up a take-out order to make things easy.

So I took myself to Ahmo's on Stone School Road - our Frugal Floozie Friday feature this week. This is one of three locations around town, each offering the same great food and friendly service any time I stop by.

Having indulged in a lot of things with - shall we say? - less than redeeming nutritional value around that time, I was craving something with vegetables. So I was very happy to find that there were numerous healthy menu options within our mandatory Frugal Floozie Friday budget of $5 per person.

I ordered the Greek Pita for $4.49, and it was prepared almost immediately despite there being several customers ahead of me; this could definitely have qualified as "fast food."

As you can see from the picture, the sandwich's filling was so generous that it could hardly be contained once I unwrapped it from the tight foil swaddling I'd brought it home in. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, flavorful, and perfectly dressed without being soggy and soaking through the bread.

Each of the six vegetable pitas costs less than $5, and there are also soups, appetizers, side orders, desserts and half portions of salads for anywhere from $1.50 to $4.99. You can even go to Ahmo's for breakfast options that meet our rigorous budgetary standards.

How great to find Frugal Floozie Friday options on the menu all day long!


Ahmo's
4001 Stone School Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
734-971-2333


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Scones


Isn't he adorable? I love gingerbread, I love chocolate chip cookies, and I love scones ... it only made sense to combine them, then, for my entry into the Hodgson Mill "Have a Grain Holiday" recipe contest!

My challenge was to "create an original, sweet or savory holiday treat using Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat flour and/or Hodgson Mill 'Best for Bread' bread flour (products provided). All entries will be judged by Hodgson Mill based on overall appeal, originality and appropriateness to the Hodgson Mill brand – we’re looking for a treat that’s delicious AND nutritious!"

In order to make my treats nutritious, I used primarily whole wheat flour. I also added a bit of wheat germ and flax seed, as well as using yogurt rather than butter. The delicious part comes from the nutty flavor of the whole grains, and also from spices, candied ginger, dark chocolate, and just the tiny touch of sweetness in the optional decoration.

These scones were ridiculously easy to make - stir together the ingredients, roll out the dough, cut them, bake them, then let them cool before decorating. The house smells amazing while these festive treats bake! And scones, of course, are a perfect accompaniment to cocoa, coffee, tea, mulled cider ... anything warm and cozy for a cold winter day.

There's enough junk food surrounding us during the holidays. Enjoy something that tastes good and is also good for you!

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Scones

1-1/2 cups Hodgson Mill 100% stone ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup Hodgson Mill white flour - unbleached
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon Hodgson Mill whole grain flax seed
2 tablespoons Hodgson Mill wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon minced candied ginger
1/3 cup ginger ale
1 egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vanilla all-natural yogurt
1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon skim milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine flours, salt, cinnamon, ginger, turbinado sugar, flax seed, wheat germ, baking powder and candied ginger. In a large measuring cup, combine egg, oil and yogurt; pour over dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Stir in chocolate chips.

Sprinkle a bit of white flour onto the countertop and knead dough just until smooth. Roll out to 1" in height, and use a 5" gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut scones. Re-roll and cut until dough is used up.

Place the scones onto the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until just lightly golden and set when their bellies are lightly pushed. Remove to a rack and cool completely.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and milk; stir until smooth. Place into a small baggie, snip a tiny corner off, and use the icing to decorate the scones. Let the icing set, then serve.

Makes 6 scones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The DAMES Dinner


I was the entertainment at a fabulous event this past Thursday night - the annual Sisterhood DAMES Dinner at Temple Beth Emeth that was filled with fun and friendship. I hardly think of myself as a "celebrity," though, despite the tremendously flattering billing shown above! I'm just a flaky chick who cooks, bakes, takes pictures of her food, and then blathers about everything she eats.

I just had to show everyone how amazing the meal was! It was prepared by the very talented Burt Steinberg and Ron Philipp, who are not only great cooks but also really good guys. Their contact information is at the bottom of the post; you absolutely want to call them to cater an event for you if you're in the Ann Arbor-ish area. (If you're not in the area, trust that I ate enough the other night for both you and me!)

The hors d'oeuvres table:


A spicy cranberry-mango chutney (front) and Brie en croute topped with cranberries (back):


A zesty cheese fondue with roasted vegetables, plus other dips for the croutons:


My dinner plate, featuring generous portions served by the chefs themselves; they love to interact with guests, so they presented and plated the food while schmoozing. There's Chicken Franchese (lightly breaded and topped with a vibrant sauce of beurre blanc with artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives), Asian cole slaw with a lime-cilantro vinaigrette, tortellini in Alfredo sauce, and a crisp-tender vegetable assortment:


No words needed for this photo!


And, finally ....

Guests were asked to bring non-perishables to be donated to The Back Door Food Pantry, which provides food and personal hygiene items to those in need; these items were then going to be placed on the dining tables as centerpieces, in honor of the evening's food-related theme. We'd thought that each of the 80 guests might bring a couple of cans ... instead, they brought entire shopping bags full of goodies - such abundance that most of it couldn't be displayed or else there'd have been no room for dinner plates! I was so touched to see such generosity ... :)


I had a wonderful time at the dinner, making new friends and eating fabulous food! Many, many thanks to the Sisterhood for inviting and welcoming me ... :)

And don't worry - I didn't forget! Here's the contact information for the chefs who prepared the amazing dinner:

Burt Steinberg, Executive Chef
Chef on Demand
burtsteinberg@yahoo.com
We put the "art" in culinary arts!

Ron Philipp, Chef Ron of Romanoff's
248-875-3336
Home style to haute cuisine

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

National Cocoa Day


Today is National Cocoa Day. And yes, you're looking at a picture of a warm drink made with white chocolate rather than with actual cocoa. Please don't write to chastize me!

"Cocoa" technically should be made with cocoa powder, but you know me - I always like to tweak things a bit. And I think that the word, in general usage, could include any form of hot chocolate drink even if that drink is made with white chocolate which actually isn't a form of chocolate at all. Don't think too hard, just suspend disbelief.

This white cocoa is the first recipe that ever won me a prize - $50 that thrilled me to such an extent that I became a veritable "contester," with membership in a cooking contest site and travelling to various competitions on a regular basis. I'm proud to say that I've won or placed in more than 60 contests, and it all started with this recipe. "I'm cooking and baking anyway, and someone might give me money for it??? Whee!"

Unfortunately, I don't have much opportunity for this endeavor anymore, as my jobs - both the full-time day job and the part-time writing gigs - take up the bulk of my waking hours (of which there are many, since sleep and I aren't usually very chummy). But every so often I still throw my proverbial spatula into the ring.

I'd entered this recipe into the AAA Michigan "Zero-Proof Mix-Off" in 1997 on a whim. They were seeking non-alcoholic beverages to support their campaign against drinking and driving at the holidays, and this was a perfect option. I was invited to demonstrate my recipe and serve it to judges at a live event, and was one of only five finalists.

I received an honorary prize simply for making it to the finals, while someone else won the $250 grand prize. But that was okay - I'd had success on my first try! I'd had a fabulous time. I'd learned a lot about presentation for future competitions. Everything about it was wonderful.

This is a ridiculously simple drink to make, and is a nice change from plain ol' hot chocolate (even though I do happen to love hot chocolate). Warm up with something a little different on our cold Michigan winter evenings, and be sure to celebrate National Cocoa Day somehow!

White Cocoa

1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Vanilla Caramel Coffee-Mate
whipped cream and sprinkles, for serving

Place the white chocolate chips into a small saucepan and melt them over low heat. Add the milk and the Coffee-Mate, whisking until smooth. Heat until there are small bubbles around the edges and steam is just starting to form.

Divide the drink among two mugs, then top with whipped cream and sprinkles if desired.

Serves 2, but is easily multiplied.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Ann Arbor Tailgates" - Cookbook for a Cause


Buy a cookbook and help the homeless.

Alpha House - a shelter for homeless families in Washtenaw County - has published a cookbook just in time for holiday shopping: Ann Arbor Tailgates: Your Favorite Recipes. It features stories and photos in addition to recipes, and it is most entertaining.

You get to meet Super Fan I, whose game uniform includes a superhero's mask created as an homage to the famous Wolverines' helmets; he offers recipes for "To Hell with Notre Dame" Gumbo and "Smash the Spartans" Apple Cake. There's also Go Bleu Cheese Spread and Go Blue Martinis, perfect for cheering on The University of Michigan's Maize 'n' Blue.

If you know someone who likes to cook, let me assure you that it's not possible to have too many cookbooks. If you know rabid football fans, those folks need this cookbook for new tailgating ideas. If you know someone who likes to entertain, there are great party recipes, from dips to chilis to desserts. Truly, this cookbook would make a great gift for anyone!

Ann Arbor Tailgates costs only $20, and $15 of that is a charitable donation which may be tax deductible. And just look how easy it is to buy copies:

1) Click on this link and buy it online. Or,

2) Contact Helen Starman, Director of Development at Alpha House: 4290 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 (734)822-0220. The cookbook can be picked up at no extra charge or mailed to you or your gift recipient for $3.50/copy.

Alpha House needs all the support we can give it, as it's really so much more than a shelter. As Executive Director Nicole Adelman states in her introduction to the cookbook:

"More than providing just a bed and a roof, our goal is to support families in securing and maintaining their own homes."

And how successful is the amazing, dedicated staff in helping their remarkably strong and resilient clients to achieve this? "In 2010, 100% of the families who left Alpha House in our Home Based Support Program were still housed one year later."

Okay, enough nudging! Let me show you one of the great recipes you'll find in your new cookbook.

It took me a long, long time to decide what to cook for this post; there were so many choices, and we all know that decisions are not my strongsuit. Something rich and hearty, like Poppy Seed Ham and Cheese Rolls? Something lighter, such as Mediterranean Eight-Layer Dip featuring hummus and vegetables? Something as sophisticated as Kahlua-Espresso Truffles, or something more family-friendly like Strawberry Pretzel Salad? Or something wildly different, namely the Vodka-Infused Gummy Bears? (I know I've piqued your curiosity! You've gotta buy the book now!)

What to make? What to eat?

It came down to which ingredients I had on hand. And so the winner was Baked Potato Chips, contributed by Maize Marvel: hand-cut potatoes baked in just a touch of olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and black pepper and served with a green onion dip.

This simply-prepared snack was so amazingly (a-maize-ingly???) good! I'd baked only one potato's worth of chips, then promptly ate them all by myself. I was sorely tempted to slice up another potato to make a second batch, but I decided that gluttony was not an attractive trait. I particularly liked the slightly overdone caramelized bits - they were crispy and extra flavorful; and I was generous with the pepper, so the chips were a bit spicy, too, which was a perfect complement to the creamy, zesty dip.

Helen Starman - whom you'll be calling to order copies of the book - offers the following: "I am so excited that you made the potato chips – I love them ... the chips are so tasty and addictive"!

So, I've given you one recipe. To get the others, buy a cookbook and help the homeless while doing your holiday shopping.

Baked Potato Chips with Green Onion Dip
(slightly adapted from the recipe submitted by Maize Marvel)

Chips:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Yukon Gold potato, sliced very thinly
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325F. Brush the oil over a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes.

Lay the potato slices onto the hot baking sheet without overlapping them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes, then flip the chips over and bake them for another 5 minutes or until done to your liking.

Dip:

1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 large green onion, chopped
sprinkle of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together and serve with the chips.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- Achatz Handmade Pie Company


Now just where, you may ask, is this place where you'll fall in love at first slice? Why, it's today's Frugal Floozie Friday feature - Achatz Handmade Pie Company.

A new store in Ann Arbor has recently joined the others in this Michigan-based franchise, offering handmade pies that have been showered with praise from Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazines, as well as from the Food Network, the Detroit Free Press, and the American Pie Council.

The Achatz [ACK-itz] family is noted in Southeastern Michigan for its cooking, due its numerous restaurants and catering businesses. The very large extended family is most famously represented by James Beard Award-winning chef Grant Achatz of Chicago's noted Alinea restaurant, which was recently named the best restaurant in North America and 6th best restaurant in the world.

The pedigree is impeccable, and my expectations were very high.

On the evening that my BFF Wendy and I visited, we were warmly greeted and offered samples as we perused the lovely offerings. The Michigan Four Berry Pie is vibrantly flavored, a gorgeous tribute to our state's produce. Achatz uses Michigan ingredients almost exclusively, from the fruit to the flour to the dairy products. The other treat we were able to sample was the Cannoli Pie, creamy and sweet and utterly sublime.

You can buy whole pies or individual slices, which vary in price. For $3.79 - well within our mandatory Frugal Floozie Friday budget of $5 per person - the slice of Cadillac Pie (pictured to the right) that I chose is an obscenely rich and decadent treat. A chocolate cookie crust supports a layer of smooth caramel sprinkled with roasted peanuts, a peanut butter silk layer, and a cream topping that is then drizzled with chocolate and still more peanuts. It is worth every single one of the calories ingested ... and please, don't anyone tell me how many there were!

Wendy ordered the Sweet Potato Pie, and whipped cream was very generously offered and graciously accepted. It cost $3.29, which meant that a large coffee could also be ordered for $1.60 while staying within our limited $5 budget. This smooth, sweet and spicy selection was chosen for its pretense of nutritional value, and it was a delicious treat.

Achatz also offers savory options and an assortment of soups for take-out, as well as selling other fine Michigan products such as Better Made potato chips and Faygo sodas. There are 45 different pies on the menu for ordering, though not every one of these is available each day by the slice.

But whatever is available - from pies featuring fruit or cream, nuts or chocolate, and even combinations thereof - and whether you eat at the shop or take your treats home, a pie from Achatz is a truly seductive indulgence.

Achatz Pies
2643 Plymouth Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
734-369-2460



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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookie Week: Butterscotch Pretzel Brownies


Today happens to be my birthday, which - trust me - is not a big deal. It's also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated in the Catholic Church; all that means to me is memories of having to go to Mass on my birthday, because this is a holy day of obligation.

What is a big deal, though, is that today is also National Brownie Day!

I'm going to be speaking at a fabulous event tonight at Temple Beth Emeth, one of the synagogues here in town; my topic is "From Catholic School to Kugel: 40 Years of Wandering to Discover Jewish Food." And I've been told - much to my giddy delight! - that brownies will be served for dessert along with ice cream and fruit ... sigh. I am looking so forward to the evening - to making new friends, to eating great food, to having fun! But if, unfortunately, you won't be attending the dinner, you can still celebrate this holiday with today's offering: Butterscotch Pretzel Brownies.

Yup - you read that right: butterscotch, pretzels, and brownies all in one fabulous sweet, salty, rich, luscious, chocolatey treat! Some matches are just a matter of bashert [bah-SHAYRT], which means "destiny" in Hebrew.

I'm not sure that I can say anything more persuasive to encourage you to make these brownies. But really, do you need a reason???

Butterscotch. Pretzels. Brownies.

'Nuff said!

Butterscotch Pretzel Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce pretzel twists, crumbled
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9"-square baking pan.

Place the butter and the unsweetened chocolate into a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl; heat until melted, and stir to combine. Stir in the cocoa powder, oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and coffee until blended. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into pan.

Sprinkle the pretzels and both chips over the top and press lightly, then bake for 20-25 minutes until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely before cutting.

Cut 1/2" from the edges, then cut into 16 brownies. The trimmings are great crumbled over vanilla or coffee ice cream, with a drizzle of caramel sauce over the top.



But wait - there are more cookies!

Cafe au Lait Blondies

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cookie Week: Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies


I adore orange marmalade! The sweet-tart combination, the texture, the gorgeous color ... I love all of it.

I have two favorite ways to eat marmalade:

1) With peanut butter in a PB&J, which my friend Susie recently served to me in charming finger sandwiches at afternoon tea without even knowing how much I love this combination!

2) In these cookies, where the flavors of the orange and the chocolate chips marry to form a perfect union.

With only a few basic ingredients, these cookies can be mixed, baked, and ready to give or serve with virtually no notice. But they're so delicious and fragrant, with their amazing citrus aroma, that they seem very sophisticated even though they're so simple.

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
6 tablespoons orange marmalade
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a baking sheet

In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and egg; stir in marmalade, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the flour and the chocolate chips.

Drop batter by measuring tablespoons onto the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden on the edges. Remove to a rack and cool completely.

Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Makes 48 cookies.

Don't forget these oldies but goodies - they're fabulous!

Ginger Shortbread Cookies

Holiday M&M Cookies

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cookie Week: Toasted Coconut Haystacks


This is one of those old-fashioned recipes that everyone in the Midwest seems to have some variation of. I had never seen them, though, until I moved to Michigan in 1978. Having grown up in New York City with a Canadian mother and a father whose own mother had emigrated from Ireland, my family didn't have this recipe.

But my ex-husband's did.

Stuart's Great-Aunt Ina created the cherished instructions for making Haystacks - a chocolatey coconut-oat no-bake cookie. She passed the recipe down, and now it is a favorite for a fourth generation. Jeremy could truly devour an entire batch of these when I make them.

Haystacks are ridiculously easy to make, as the most difficult step is merely waiting for them to cool and set. They're a great treat to give as holiday gifts, or to make when you're given last minute notice of bake sales. Butter, sugar, cocoa powder ... two minutes of stirring ... that's it!

Jeremy and Stuart are purists who never want to change anything; they want the same meals served at holidays, the same graham cracker crust at the base of their cheesecake, the same version of Haystacks that they've eaten all their lives.

I, however, like to tweak things a bit.

So I toasted the coconut rather than just stirring it in "as is." And I have to say that the boys loved them! This step offers just an extra bit of depth to the flavor.

Traditions are important at the holidays, and serving Haystacks has been a tradition in the Bilyeu family for decades.

Toasted Coconut Haystacks

1 cup coconut
3 cups quick-cook oats
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Place coconut into a large skillet; toast it over low heat just until it starts to turn golden. Place into a large mixing bowl and add the oats.

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, butter, milk, cocoa powder and vanilla to a boil; boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour the chocolate mixture over the coconut and oats. Stir to combine well. (Add another 1-2 tablespoons of milk if the mixture seems a bit dry and isn't cohesive.)

Drop golf ball-sized dollops of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing lightly to help the cookies hold together as they set. Let cool on the counter or in the refrigerator until set.

Makes 2 dozen cookies, though you could make them smaller to make more.

By the way - don't forget these treats, too:

Oatmeal Shortbread

Blueberry Walnut Rugelach

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cookie Week: Stoplight Cookies


Yesterday was National Cookie Day. So I thought I would use that festive occasion as inspiration for this week's offerings, and provide recipes for holiday treats so that you can get started on your Christmas baking.

Yes, Christmas is 20 days away. And there are cookie exchanges, parties, tree trimming, and all sorts of other events coming where treats will be required. Santa will be expecting a little nosh, too, once he gets down that chimney.

But before you succumb to feeling overwhelmed and overstressed, let me assure you that I'm way behind on my own baking ventures. This is as much a nudge for me as it is for you.

So let's get started! Welcome to Cookie Week!

Our first feature is Stoplight Cookies, one of Jeremy's all-time favorites. They began life as a variation on thumbprint cookies, with candied cherries placed in the center of the cookie rather than it being filled with jam.

But one time, I tried to cram too many cookies onto the baking sheet; they bled together rather than remaining as individual rounds. When Jeremy - who was very young at the time - saw them, he was absolutely giddy: "They're stoplight cookies!"

Oh, okay. They're not a mistake anymore - they're a new creation!

Jeremy asks for these simple but festive cookies every year. And I remember - as only a mom whose son is now 6'3" and almost 21 years old can - how little and sweet and innocent he was when he redeemed my baking disaster with his glee.

Stoplight Cookies
(adapted from a recipe in The Taste of Home Cookbook)

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons milk
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
18 red candied cherries, halved
18 green candied cherries, halved

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and shortening together; stir in the confectioners' sugar 'til light and fluffy. Stir in the milk and the eggs. Add the flour and salt, and combine well.

Form 3/4" balls of dough and place two next to each other - mushed together just a bit - on an ungreased cookie sheet.


Place a red cherry piece onto one half of each cookie and a green cherry piece onto the other half of each cookie.

Bake for 12 minutes until the cookies are just set. Remove to a rack and cool completely, repeating with remaining dough and cherries.

Makes 36 cookies.

And don't forget these oldies but goodies:

Applesauce Bars

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frugal Floozie Friday -- The Bomber


It's Frugal Floozie Friday, and today's feature offers the most gargantuan quantity of food yet for our measly budget of $5 per person! What you see in the photo is the infamous Bomber Breakfast, found only at the Bomber restaurant.

Jeremy recently had an early morning appointment, and his dad, Stuart, and I went along with him. Afterwards, we decided we could use some breakfast; and so we ended up at this Ypsilanti institution:

"The Bomber opened in 1936 as Baldwin's Diner. In the 1940s the name was changed to the Bomber, only to be discarded in favor of Bob's Barbecue in the mid-1970s. Finally in 1986, the name Bomber returned and the current owners John Sebestyen and Johanna McCoy purchased it in 1995".

The restaurant is noted for the historical artifacts linings its walls - everything from uniforms to posters to autographed photos to rifles - not to mention the 24 model airplanes which hang from the ceiling. It is also noted for friendly service, generous portions, and the kind of atmosphere that encourages eating, reading the paper, having just a little bit more coffee, chatting with other customers, and making oneself at home.

The signature dish - the Bomber Breakfast - is so enormous that it was once featured on the Food Network's "Top Five Overindulgences" show. There is enough food, truly, to feed a family of four: a pound of hash browns with cheese and onions, 2 full slices of toast, 4 eggs any style, and a choice of 6 sausage patties or 7 sausage links or 10 slices of bacon or 2 slices of ham. (Our waitress told us, upon seeing our eyes glaze over, that we could mix-'n'-match if we wanted to.)

So, how much does this platter full of food cost?

$9.95.

And since Stuart and I split it - though we couldn't finish it, despite valiant efforts! - it came in at under our mandatory $5 per person limit.

As though this wasn't enough indulgence, Jeremy ordered an obscenely rich and decadent breakfast for himself: Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast. A half order - 2 portions of thick bread filled with luscious Nutella, dipped in batter and drenched in syrup - costs only $4.95.

The Bomber also features weekday breakfast specials for $4.50, featuring everything from traditional pancakes and eggs and oatmeal to breakfast sandwiches. There are many items on the menu which could qualify for our Frugal Floozie Friday mission.

The Bomber is a great place to go for a hearty breakfast or lunch, and is easily a place where you could become a regular.

Bomber
306 East Michigan Ave.
Ypsilanti, Michigan
734-482-0550


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