Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day!!!

Today is Opening Day of baseball season -- Tigers at Yankees at 1:05 p.m. EDT on ESPN. For a girl who grew up in New York City and who's lived near Detroit for more than 30 years now, this is a primo way to start things off!

Although I'm loathe to admit it -- and I do my very best to keep my grey roots hidden so that folks can't tell my age by counting the silver, the way they count rings in a tree! -- I have to admit that I'm old enough to remember those mid-70s commercials touting All-American icons: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

And each year on Opening Day -- a day which, as far as I'm concerned, should be a national holiday 'cause folks are either playing hooky or watching games on, but they're sure not working! -- I can't help but think of the old ads.

Because I adore baseball -- I was raised on it, going to Mets games (one of my mother's best friends is married to one of their former coaches) ... Yankees games ... and actually being at Yankee Stadium on June 17, 1978 for the game in which Ron Guidry pitched 18 strikeouts to tie the American League record. I think the quadrennial (it should be annual!) World Baseball Classic is one of the greatest things in the entire universe, as I can wake up in the morning to watch a game pitting Japan against China, come home from work and watch Italy play the Netherlands, and then fall asleep watching Cuba play Canada. It just doesn't get much better in my world!

I raised Jeremy on it, too: minor league games, t-ball, Tigers games, even Alaska Baseball League games when we spent part of a summer in Anchorage while my ex-husband did a medical residency rotation at a Native Alaskan treatment center. (The Alaska Baseball League describes itself as "A Premier Summer Collegiate Baseball League Containing Players From Major Colleges Throughout The World".) And any time the University of Michigan's baseball team is playing on Mother's Day, that's where you'll find Jeremy and me -- 1 p.m. on May 8, this year!

I also love apple pie, and I just happen to drive a Chevrolet -- a Chevy Suburban. But my tradition is actually much simpler: hot dogs and Cracker Jacks, those consummate baseball foods. No beer necessary (don't like it at all) but maybe a soda, which I almost never drink, just 'cause it's a celebration!

So, what sorts of unofficial holidays do you celebrate? And how do you do so? Every family has its own traditions, after all, apart from those the rest of society acknowledges; and these are so important to pass along through generations, integral to forming a family identity.

Let me know ... and it's okay if you stop mid-typing to catch a great play or to take a bite of your hot dog while watching the game today. Have no fear -- I'll understand completely ... :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me if I was interested in receiving coupons for free bottles of juice; the presumption, of course, was that I would rave about them.

I like to offer objective opinions about foods and restaurants, and don't ever want anyone to think that I've been swayed by having received a freebie. So I explained that I don't do product reviews, but that I'd be interested in trying the samples if that condition were acceptable. And it was!

So a lovely woman named Tara sent me some coupons that enabled me to try Simply Orange, Simply Apple or Simply Grapefruit juices. I adore grapefruit juice -- if I had to choose a favorite of all the many varieties, it would be grapefruit without question.

I happily took my coupon and exchanged it for a free bottle. Now, other than drinking a glass of it, what else might I do??? I would love to marinate chicken in a grapefruit-based sauce, but I can't have the chicken here in the vegetarian home I'm currently staying at. But with the warm weather of Spring having peered in for a few days, a salad sounded awfully tempting.

And so, I made a grapefruit vinaigrette. This is absolutely ridiculously easy to make, takes a whopping 45 seconds or so to mix, and is vividly bright and refreshing on a green salad. Toss in a little shredded parmesan, some dried cranberries, and even some pieces of fresh grapefruit, and a perfect light meal is ready!

Grapefruit Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Whisk all ingredients together. That's it!



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Invitation to an Art Exhibit

After Nancy Left Him, Roy Painted Everything Pink

by Thomas Boulan

My boyfriend Tom, for those who are new to my blogging family, is a very accomplished artist and writer; and starting Thursday, eight of his digital collages will be part of the extremely prestigious 7th Annual Docent Art Exhibit at the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti [ip-sih-LAN-tee].

The exhibit itself runs from March 31 - April 30, 2011. The reception -- where you get to schmooze with the artists -- will be this Saturday night, April 2, from 5 - 7 p.m. Come that evening and enjoy a buffet of treats, a jazz trio, and immersion in some of the best that the Ann Arbor-Ypsi art scene has to offer.

It's wonderful for Tom to have such a fabulous opportunity to showcase his work! There are abstracts as well as figurative pieces; and I haven't even seen them all, so it's very exciting that my first viewing will present them matted, framed, and hanging in an exhibit as the works of art that they are, rather than merely as thumbnails on Flickr.

Of course, in addition to supporting Tom as well as the other docents and the gallery itself, we all know that I'm all about the food. And I always look forward to mixing two of my very favorite subjects in life -- art and eating! -- as I'll be able to do at Saturday night's reception.

Each of the exhibitors is expected to contribute treats for the guests. Tom has his heart set on my making chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks, rolled in crushed peanuts -- they're easy to do, inexpensive, flavorful, and readily totable while walking around and admiring the artworks. We're also bringing a special festive surprise dessert, but that's still a secret ... shhhh.

If you're in the area, feel free to come on down to join us for the reception -- we'd love to see you! You can also check out Tom's photostream on Flickr. And he's just been featured on Downtown L.A. Life, an online magazine which offers some samples of his work as well as a brief biographical statement.

All of the docents who work at Riverside are volunteers, and it is truly their dedication -- whether newcomers, like Tom, or those who've maintained regular shifts for years and years -- that keeps the gallery open and available to the community for no admission charge. So that they get the honors that are due to them, here are their names:

Steve Allen, Tom Boulan, Laurie Clark, Lois Dowling, Dennis Gordon, Bill Knudstrup, Joan Miller, Joan Newberry, Marilyn Prucka, Sebastian Rataezyk, Michelle Shankwiler, Tara Truax, Corrine Vivian, Ken Warner, Carolyn Weins, and Angela Wilson

Special accolades must also go to Dee Overly, curator of the Docent Exhibit and a one-woman force of nature who supports the art gallery through coordinating shows, managing staffing, envisioning exhibits, and investing her passion into the Center. She and her team of docents (whether artists whose work is on display or not) are amazing ... and you have an opportunity to reap the rewards of their efforts for yourself and also meet them all on Saturday night! Don't miss it!!!

P.S.: Many of the artworks will be available for purchase, hint hint ... :)

Riverside Arts Center
76 N. Huron Street
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

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Monday, March 28, 2011

An Auction Gift Basket

My very dear friend Fran is a significant force in the universe; with her charm, her kindness, her radiant smile, and -- most importantly -- her profoundly generous heart, when she asks you to do something resistance is futile. Therefore, when she asked me if I would make a contribution to last night's auction to benefit the Jewish Community Center of Ann Arbor (an event that she chaired), you already know what my answer was: but, of course!

Now regular readers know that decisions are not my strong-suit ... frankly, they're not even my weak-suit. I don't make decisions well at all. So, what to offer? What to contribute? How to help the cause???

Because I was in the midst of moving when the request came, I wasn't sure where I was headed or for how long; thus, I wasn't sure what I could commit to. I offered a basket with an assortment of granolas -- that would be easy to make no matter what came along in my life in the 2 months before I actually had to produce anything. But Fran felt that wasn't worthy of me ... awwww. She knew I could do better. She believed in me!

And so, ultimately I offered a 2-fold package:

1. A gift certificate awarding the winner an interview with me, to be posted here on the blog: "Food Floozie has 600+ followers who would love to read about you, your best recipe, your culinary heritage, the most delicious meal you've ever eaten, your favorite restaurant, the strangest item you've been brave enough to taste, or any other mouth-watering topics that strike your fancy. Sit and schmooze with blogger/writer Mary Bilyeu ... and then enjoy fame (sorry, no fortune!) when your interview is posted and you can share it with everyone you know!!!"

2. A basket of goodies. The phrase "trio of treats" kept creeping through my brain, and so I offered that even though I had no idea what the treats would be!

As my deadline approached, I used my woefully inadequate decision-making skills to wade through a variety of options. I'll spare you meandering through my stream of consciousness ... it wasn't pretty as I debated the myriad choices for baked goods, and then made them jump through permutations with different flavorings and toppings ... oy.

Here's what I ultimately made:

Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake

Double Chip Cookies (containing both chocolate chips and crushed plain potato chips)

Chocolate-Filled Sandwich Cookies

Now, to broaden the pool of potential bidders on my package, each of the baked goods is pareve ([PAHRV] = neither meat nor dairy) so that they could be enjoyed with either a meat or a dairy meal (since Jewish dietary laws forbid mixing the two). They were also made in a kosher kitchen.

With all of that having been considered, the only reason not to bid on a basketful of chocolate baked goods would be if -- God forbid! -- you didn't like chocolate. When I told Fran what I'd ultimately determined to make, she said simply: "I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it." :)

I was thrilled to see that my little package was valued at $150 -- I'd had no clue what to set it at, so this was really exciting! -- and that the minimum starting bid would be $75. Also, when a teaser email was sent featuring some key items designed to tempt potential attendees and bidders, my item was one of the ones showcased!

So, who won my auction package??? I don't know yet. But you'll be introduced to him or her, have no fear, and we'll all get to hear some interesting tales about food ... practically my reason for being!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Friday: 3-Ingredient Tomato Salsa Soup

After an unexpectedly long and stressful day last week, which came after several other long and stressful days, I arrived home one evening tempted to tear open a bag of potato chips but determined to treat myself with more respect than that and eat a proper dinner.

But I had little time, less inclination, and not too many ingredients at my disposal. What could I serve that would nourish me quickly?

Soup. I had a container of tomato-pepper soup, and it could serve as my base. It's okay on its own, though it kinda needs a bit of oomph-ing up. What to add to it ...?

Salsa. I still had fresh salsa in the refrigerator; that would be perfect! And then the final epiphany struck: I'd been saving some tortilla chip crumbs, knowing I could find a purpose for them in life. And this was it! Yay!!!

So I heated the soup and salsa, poured the soup into a bowl, placed the crumbs on top, and I enjoyed a warm, nourishing meal within maybe 5 minutes.

Cause I'm worth it ... :)

Tomato and Salsa Soup

1-1/2 cups roasted tomato and red pepper soup
1/2 cup fresh salsa
1/4 cup crushed tortilla chips

Heat the soup and the salsa in a small saucepan. Pour the soup into a bowl, and top with crushed chips.

Serves 1.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fully Loaded Vegetarian Pizza

My friend Wendy came over the other night for commisserating about men (oy!!!) and relationships, disappointments and betrayals, plans and goals, hopes and dreams ... BFF stuff, that is. And we wanted something kinda junk food-ish for our evening of ruminating, but without completely sacrificing our health.

I don't eat pizza very often; I love it, but it doesn't generally have a lot of nutritional value with all that yeast and white flour and cheese. But I was having a craving, and was able to more than satisfy it that night even though I was cooking at home and thus had to keep it both vegetarian and kosher.

Now, this was admittedly not one of my handmade masterpieces made with a dough recipe that originated with a man who emigrated from Italy, sauce lovingly tended for hours, imported cheeses ... uh uh. This was just about as close as I get to fast food, using convenience ingredients for the sake of speed.

So, with a prepared pizza crust, a jar of marinara sauce, and several different types of cheese, I set to work. I did use lots of vegetables -- onion, mushrooms, garlic, and red peppers. I also chopped up a couple of vegetarian burgers to give it that "meaty" consistency and texture, since I love both pepperoni and Italian sausage. This pizza was absolutely loaded with stuff on it ... and healthy stuff, too!

Wendy kept commenting on how good the pizza smelled as it baked, and I have to say that I'm pretty proud of the results despite it having been thrown together with ready-made items. We ate some for dinner, I brought some for lunch the next two days ... a small investment of time garnered fabulous results!

This pizza was so good that you could probably have passed it off as a "meat" pizza, and no one would have questioned it. There are enough questions about life and the prospects for happiness without throwing anything else into the mix!

Vegetarian Pizza

1 pizza crust
pizza/pasta sauce
chopped red onion, mushrooms, red peppers, and garlic
Morningstar Farms Tomato and Basil burger patty, chopped up
cheeses: mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan

Lay the crust onto a baking sheet, and spoon some sauce over it. Saute the onion, mushrooms, red peppers, garlic and Morningstar Farms patty until the onion is translucent.

Place the vegetables over the sauce. Top with the cheeses.

Bake according to the directions on the pizza crust package.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp for Springtime

A sure sign that Spring has finally come is the first sighting of rhubarb in stores or at farmers' markets. Its gorgeous red is immediately attractive, and is so seductive that there is no way to resist buying it! I've made rhubarb pies, quick breads, dessert bars, and all sorts of other variants, including a savory chicken dish once; but my favorite way to use those beautiful stalks is to make a simple crisp. It's not particularly photogenic, I admit! But it's easy to make and absolutely sublime with hints of sweetness, tartness, and spice all rolled into one luscious dessert ... :) Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp 1-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb 1 quart strawberries, chopped juice of 1 orange 1/4 cup sugar 1/3 cup white whole wheat flour 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup quick-cook oats 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/3 cup butter, melted Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie pan. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, orange juice and sugar; place into the pie pan. Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats and cinnamon; pour the butter over the mixture and combine well. Spread the oat mixture over the fruit. Bake for 35 minutes, until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Let cool a bit, and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream ... or both!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hamantaschen Saga

At Purim, which Jews celebrated this past weekend, it is required by Jewish law to hear the story of Esther, who saved the Jewish people from annihilation when the evil Haman wanted to destroy them; but it is required by Jewish custom to eat hamantaschen. And you know me -- I'm always about the food!

Now, some folks may actually know what hamantaschen [hah-men-TAHSH-en] are, because they've evolved into a German Christmas cookie. But they originated -- and continue to exist happily -- as the requisite Purim treat. They are named for either the ears or the hat, according to competing legends, of that consummate bad guy, Haman.

According to Wikipedia:

The name hamantash (המן־טאַש), is commonly known as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. The pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people, and thus resemble the "ears of Haman". A more likely source of the name is a folk etymology: the original Yiddish word מאָן־טאַשן (montashn) or German word mohntaschen, both meaning poppyseed-filled pouches ... was transformed to Hamantaschen, likely by association with Haman. In Israel, they are called Oznei Haman (Hebrew: אוזני המן‎), Hebrew for "Haman's ears" in reference to their defeated enemy's ears.
I love Purim, as it's an excuse for everyone -- especially adults, I think! -- to be silly and to eat cookies ... what's not to love??? And part of the tradition is the inevitable debate over whether anyone likes the prune filled hamantaschen, attempts to claim that only those with poppy seeds are authentic, whether yeast dough or sugar dough is easier to work with or tastes better ... oy. It's a cookie! Just give me the cookie! Apricot, cherry, chocolate, prune, poppy seed, yeast, whatever ... I just want the cookies!

I make my own from scratch each year, including the fillings; I freeze fruits from the Summer precisely to make jam for filling hamantaschen in the Spring.

But I couldn't bring those items, prepared in my old kitchen, into the kosher home I'm currently staying at. So I either had to buy new ingredients and make new fillings here, or I had to find an alternate site for my baking fest.

Tom very graciously invited me to use his kitchen ... :)

I went over there with all of my ingredients -- including my homemade/handmade fillings -- prepared to bake my little heart out. Except that, with all of my things packed into boxes and in storage, I couldn't find my faithful, trustworthy recipe.

So I did a search and selected one of the 843,025 options that were offered, and set to mixing dough, refrigerating dough, rolling dough, cutting dough, forming dough, and baking dough ... only to have my cookies turn out like this:

Popped open ... filling having turned into a topping ... dry ... tasting chalky ... bleah. Worst recipe ever for hamantaschen, apparently!!!

We scraped the fillings off the cookies and put them back into their original containers -- why waste anything??? -- with hopes of trying again another day. But there just wasn't any way to coordinate that at Tom's place, so we moved our operation to the kitchen where I'm staying and I resigned myself to making new fillings -- mixed berry and chocolate.

In the meantime, I'd found my own recipe for the dough; but I had to make some strategic substitutions for both non-dairy and kosher ingredients. I learned that Tofutti makes a "sour cream" that actually looks like the real thing ... who knew??? I didn't actually taste it, 'cause I'm not that brave. But I baked with it nonetheless!

Again I set about to mixing dough, refrigerating dough, rolling dough, cutting dough, forming dough, and baking dough. And I was so devastated at the results -- cookies which collapsed, fillings which oozed everwhere -- that I couldn't even take their picture through my tears.

I thought I'd lost my baking mojo, was railing about the "fake" ingredients I'd had to use, resented not having my own kitchen and equipment, felt that in the midst of the chaos of my travels through various living arrangements and kitchens that now I'd also have to sacrifice a beloved tradition ... these cookies triggered a powerful response, and it wasn't very pretty.

But I'm stubborn. Some might say foolish, but I prefer "stubborn" ... "optimistic"? ... "resilient"??? I tried one more time.

I took all my "fake" ingredients, I took homemade apple and berry fillings, I took my own recipe, and I did everything I needed to do while hoping fervently that this time my hamantaschen would turn out properly. Please, please, please, please, please!!!

And when the timer rang for the first batch on this third attempt, I was leery. I was prepared for disaster, and yet I found that they were perfect! They were triangles! The filling was contained instead of creeping all over the baking sheet! They actually looked like hamantaschen!!!

So, I don't know what happened between attempts #2 and #3, other than the universe took pity on me and righted whatever had been wrong. I was, and am, grateful for it!

Hamantaschen may look difficult to make, but they're very easy. They also don't need to be picture perfect, as I rather like the hint of a rustic look which shows that they were made by hand, with love; but they do need to at least be readily identifiable as hamantaschen!


1 cup butter or Earth Balance butter substitute, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream or Tofutti sour cream substitute
2 eggs
5 cups flour
1-1/2 cups any flavor filling (Solo fillings work beautifully)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar; stir in the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in the sour cream and the eggs. Stir in the flour.

Divide the dough into 2 portions, wrap in each plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Take one portion of the dough and roll it out to 1/4" thickness. Using a 3" round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can; place dough circles onto the baking sheet, 2" apart.

Place a teaspoon of filling into the center of each dough circle.

Wet your fingertip and run it around the circumference of the dough, one at a time, to help the dough to adhere when you pinch it together.

Pull up two sides of the circle, and pinch the corner where they meet.

Pull up the remaining side, and pinch at the corners.

Repeat this procedure with each of the cookies, then bake for 10 minutes until the cookies are just turning golden. Remove to a rack and let them cool completely, repeating the process with the remaining dough and fillings.

This recipe makes dozens of cookies, but I can't really tell you how many ... maybe 4 dozen??? I just bake until I run out of either dough or filling, so it's a very inexact science!

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