An ode to the Frug

Look back. Go ahead and look back in time. Do you remember all of the people, the experiences you had, the books you read, the flavors you tasted. The many influences that make you into the cook you are today? Hell, the person you are today? Look back and smile. Look back and laugh. Enjoy. It’s all been good.

When I was a girl, I loved to bake. I only began to dabble in cooking when I began to stumble onto the many things that would influence what I loved to eat. One person who influenced me was a strange and silly man. A theologian, a historian, he was not a chef. He was a home cook. Endlessly fascinating, clumsy in the kitchen, but knowledgeable and quite possibly the first real foodie I had ever seen. He dubbed himself the Frugal Gourmet and I sat on floor in front of the TV each week to listen to stories, be entertained and watch a man make amazing food in a really nice kitchen with better equipment than I thought I’d ever have access to.

To tell you the truth, I think I enjoyed watching his antics more than cooking out of his books. I loved to watch him. His show made me happy. His recipes were unfortunately inconsistent and he made me into a better cook because I often had to make changes to the recipes to get them to work.

But… I miss the Frug. I was so happy to stumble onto the fact that other people loved him enough to keep recordings of his show and post them on YouTube. I have a treat for you. Here is a quintessential example of why I was mesmerized by his show. Please spend the next half hour watching the Frugal Gourmet bake with sourdough. You won’t regret it. Please keep reading after the show. I baked up one of his other loaves of bread and you won’t want to miss that!

Even after all of these years, I still use my Frugal Gourmet cookbooks. The other day, I whipped out my copy of The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors. I have to admit that out of the three books of his I own, this isn’t my favorite, and I haven’t really looked at it with fresh eyes in quite awhile. After I made some enchiladas verde con queso using the recipe from the Mexico chapter as a rough guideline (I have completely changed this recipe over the years to be much more healthy), I began to page through this book. There are so many bread recipes. I didn’t know. At the time I got these books, I wouldn’t have dared bake bread. When I got to the chapter on Germany, I became very curious about the pumpernickel bread recipe. It sounded so delicious!

I finally had the chance to bake up a loaf of this wonderful bread today. I’m happy I never tried to bake this bread years ago because I would have been frustrated. The recipe called for over half a cup more white flour than necessary and the bread needed to bake for fifteen minutes longer than the recipe called for which are errors I never would have caught before I became a seasoned bread baker. But, I have to say, I was so happy with this bread. The Frug wrote in his book about this bread: “It is simple to do and the results are better than those of most bakeries that you know” Comparing this to the sourdough rye I made awhile back, it took a third of the time, a third of the kneading and the bread was just as delicious as that much more complex loaf. My boyfriend thinks it is better than the pumpernickel bread we get at a favorite restaurant which comes from a respected bakery. I have to say this is a very close second to that bread too!

If you love pumpernickel bread and want an simple recipe, this is for you! This loaf is going to YeastSpotting, a showcase of fine bread across the Blogosphere.

Pumpernickel bread

Adapted from The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith

4 ½ tsp active yeast

1 ¼ cup tepid water (between 105 – 110 degrees, F.)

1 cup whole grain rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup molasses

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp whole caraway seeds

1 ½ tsp salt

1 cup unbleached white flour (possibly more if needed)

Cornmeal for dusting your peel

In a large bowl, combine yeast and water. Allow to proof for 10 minutes. It should be nice and frothy. Add rye flour, whole wheat flour, molasses, cocoa, caraway seeds and salt. Mix well. Add white flour and mix with a heavy spoon or spatula until well combined. Turn out onto a floured board. This makes a very dense dough. The original recipe called for over a half cup more white flour which could be added if the dough is sticky. If your dough is sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time if needed. Knead the dough for 5 – 7 minutes. It will become smooth and elastic and the outside will feel soft like your earlobe. (This dough will not be elastic enough to do a window pane test).

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with a heavy cloth and allow to rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch the dough down. Knead for a minute and then form into a ball. Sprinkle a peel or a rimless cookie sheet with a liberal amount of cornmeal. Lay the dough ball on the cornmeal. Cover the dough with the cloth and allow to rise until doubled again, about an hour.

Put a pizza stone on the top rack in the oven. Also place a metal pan on the lower rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using the peel or a rimless baking sheet, transfer the dough to the hot stone. Pour about a cup of water into the metal pan to create steam. Bake the bread for 45 minutes. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom and/or an instant read thermometer reads an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. when poked into the bread.

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A brief history told in food

Today the topic should have been prunes. I was going to wax poetic about inulin and be cranky about marketers subverting our minds by renaming food products with kinder gentler names (prunes became dried plums) to make us buy their products. There would have been an off color joke or two as well, I’m sure.

Instead, I found myself holding a very special book. I have made it no secret that I own way too many cookbooks, but time and time again, I go reaching for one book. This book. Battered and worn, it started life a blank waiting to be filled. Not a conventional cookbook. This book is magic. It holds a history of food we have made and loved. This book is about me as much as it is about recipes. The truth is, the book is three volumes. The volume we’ll talk about today was written between 1990 to 1995. Book two of the set was written in 1995 to 2004. The third book was never completed because of a little thing called a blog. (So in a way, Delectable Tidbits is volume four).

Some people have recipe cards. Some people keep clippings in a scrapbook. I hand wrote recipes into a composition book. It is now tattered and worn from years of use. Spattered from the days before I owned a cookbook stand with a protective shield. It’s hard to believe twenty years have gone by since I first set a pen to its pages.

In case you can’t read the label on the previous picture, here it is up close. My sense of humor hasn’t changed much, has it?

I wrote the recipes by hand. Making illustrations in the corner of each page. Notes were scribbled at the bottom of the pages as I became a more inventive cook and customized the recipes to my taste. The recipes were taken from magazines or cookbooks, borrowed from friends or the library. My only regret is not writing down the source of the recipes. Now I don’t know where they came from!

The book did not originally come with an index. I had an “index” in my brain that was a combination of remembering when in time I made the recipe and a drawing in the corner of each page that would remind me of what the recipe was as I flipped through the pages. My boyfriend, a more left brained creature than I am, could not understand my inefficient efficiency and insisted on creating an index on the computer for me. I still laugh whenever I see that “beans’ was the first section of my cookbook. I love him so much even though his brain works so differently than mine.

Let’s look at some highlights of the pictograms from the corners of the book:

Page 34 is Cranberry-Prune squares. The picture is a bunch of prunes and dried cranberries dancing. (Square dancing, get it??). I haven’t looked at this recipe in years and I was surprised to see that it fit exactly into the clean eating regimen that we are sticking to now. Just honey for sweetener and whole wheat flour. Stick with me until the end of this post – these are delicious and you’ll want to bake them!

Page 67 was Jolof Rice. I was trying to get back to eating less meat and found this recipe in Vegetarian Times. It was delicious but between the ginger, TWO jalapenos and TWO tsp of cayenne, it nearly burnt us from tongue to tail. I meant to make this again with less spices but never did. Maybe I will now. The pictogram is of an African basket (this was an African inspired dish) and the chilies and eggplant featured in the dish.

Page 77: Strawberry shortcakes, va-va-va-voom!

Page 9: Baked orange roughy with leeks and shitake. Remember when orange roughy was the “in” fish? Now it is endangered. I remember this recipe as being good, but I’ll use some other fish in the future. Do you like the fishy swimming towards the leeks and mushroom?

Page 98: Why a parakeet for Chicken, potato and green bean salad? I had a green and yellow parakeet named green bean. Why else?

Page 16: The recipe was for my boyfriend’s tamari and snow pea omelet tacos. We made these at a time when we could get snow peas every week at what was then a fledgling farmer’s market. We got them from an old lady who we affectionately dubbed “snow pea lady” because that was all she sold.

My boyfriend is going to kill me for including this one. He is way more handsome than that. This was a picture of him first thing in the morning. His hair was cut way too short at the time. It is a rendering of what he looked like first thing out of bed, hair messy, glasses instead of contacts, half asleep, clutching a breakfast taco. If I remember correctly, his reaction to being immortalized that way was “very funny!”.

Page 85: The recipe is Mimi’s enchiladas. Does this look familiar? I’m sporting a funny little sombrero, but I still look pretty much the same, don’t I?

That was fun! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Now back to what we are all here for:  yummy food. These Prune and Cranberry bars are wholesome yet delicious. They have the texture of dense little cakes and are saturated with spices. One change I made to the original recipe is to use dried cranberries which are so much more available year round than fresh or frozen. I simmer them in dessert wine to plump them back up and give them flavor but apple juice would work as well. Enjoy!

Cranberry – Prune Squares

Adapted from a recipe I think I got from Sunset magazine years ago

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cup dessert wine or apple juice

2 large eggs

¾ cup honey

¼ cup salted butter, melted

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp baking powder

1 cup roasted almonds, chopped

1 cup pitted prunes, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.

Butter an 8” square baking pan.

In a small sauce pan, simmer dried cranberries in dessert wine or apple juice for 5 to 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Let cool.

Beat together eggs, honey and melted butter. Combine flour, spices and baking powder. Beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. Stir in almonds, prunes and cranberries. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. At about 35 minutes into baking, check to see if the bars are getting too brown. Honey tends to burn in baked goods. If the bars look like they will burn, cover the bars loosely with aluminum foil. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. Mine were done at 40 minutes today.

Trying to shrink

I hope you aren’t getting tired of muffins. Obviously, I’m not. Today’s post is masquerading as yet another muffin post, but it’s really about something else entirely. Something very personal. If you have been a very long time reader of mine, you will remember the year that I was serious about Weight Watchers and I lost forty two pounds. Several months ago, I just let it all go. It happened the way this sort of thing happens to people. I had a routine and it centered around work. I ate certain things at certain times of the day and walked during my breaks and then sometimes, made it to the gym on top of that. I had a really good routine that I hardly had to think about. The weight loss came easy. When I lost my job, I lost my routine, I got really depressed, things started to slip and a whole host of bad habits came back. Then I stopped trying altogether. I have gained back seventeen pounds.

Now, I know your first instinct is to be supportive and tell me that seventeen pounds isn’t even half of what I lost and I’m still okay. The problem is that I was going through all of this effort for my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, go blind, trip and break my hip, trip again and break my other hip and suffer the way my mother has. I don’t want to clog my arteries, suffer for years with angina and then have a quadruple bypass like my dad. I know I don’t want any of that, but I suffer from human nature and I am my parents daughter and I have ingrained poor habits that I have to concentrate very hard on changing every day. My dad said something last week that sums up what I need to strive for. He basically said that everyone gets old and everyone will die, but you want to do whatever you can to have the best quality of life until the end. Well said. Something I need to concentrate on very hard. Something that seeing my mom laying in her hospital bed so fragile and unhappy drives home for me.

One problem I have that I think everyone struggles with is portion control. I have a bad habit of having more than one of something I like and taking too much of it to begin with. In order to shrink me, I’ll need to shrink my portions so that’s what I did this week. I did a knock-off of the delicious strawberry muffins from last time but I made sure I made them in mini muffin tins. Here is the Mimi math for you. Each mini muffin is one half the size of a regular muffin. If I ate a regular muffin and then lost control and had to have a second muffin, it would equal four mini muffins. So, if I have a mini muffin and have a second, it equals one regular muffin. If I go really crazy and have three, it is equal to one and a half regular muffins, I am still ahead half a muffin. Terrible logic, I’m sure, but these are the little tricks that helped me lose the weight last time.

Sourdough apple walnut mini muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

½ cup apple sauce

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for forty-five seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and walnuts.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the apple sauce, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, vanilla extract and diced apples. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the muffin tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and then serve.

P.S. Any muffin batter can be baked as mini muffins instead. Just experiment with decreasing the amount of time they bake. Here is a list of muffins that have appeared on Delectable Tidbits before:

Blood orange sweet cherry corn muffins

Carrot-currant muffins

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

Orange poppy seed mini muffins

Peach and strawberry muffins

Sourdough strawberry walnut muffins

Glasstastrophe!!

Okay.  I admit.  This was entirely my fault but it was still annoying. 

 

I read Martha Stewart magazine but it is in a kind of voyeuristic freak show kind of way.  It is hard for me to believe that people are actually so clean and organized.  I am the anti Martha.  I was the kid who had a room that looked like a tornado hit it.  When my Mom yelled at me to clean it up, I was the kid who shoved the entire mess into the closet.  I’m still that kid.

 

You would think that any sane person would find room for the scores of cookbooks she owns.  Any person who cares about their things would make sure they are at least standing up vertically on the bookshelf.  That same rational person would figure out there was a cookbook population problem and make an effort to find a place for the overflow.

 

 Instead… I have a habit of laying the extra books on top of the properly vertically stored books on the shelf (you know where this is going, don’t you?).  To make matters worse, I thought it was perfectly acceptable to store my cookbook holder the exact same way.  And… are you ready for this?  In this same kitchen cupboard where these shelves are, I was storing a bunch of glass items on the floor of the cupboard right in front of the lowest shelf of books.

 

Yup….

 

 Looks like I need a new cookbook holder…

 damaged-cookbook-holder.jpg 

And if anyone knows where I can get a new lid to my infusion jar, let me know.

 

Broken lid

 

Well, I’m not one for New Years resolutions, but I think I need to resolve to be a little tiny bit more Martha. 😳

   

 

 

An indulgence in autumn treats and a eulogy for an old friend

Today was a slightly emotional morning for me.  I took my car of seventeen years to be scrapped.  To be sure, the poor thing was an absolute beater.  It was dented.  It had peeling paint.  The driver’s side seat was wearing thin enough for holes to start to appear. Pieces were starting to fall off of the car both inside and out.  I had that car from the time when we were both shiny and new to when we were, both of us, used, creaky and cranky.  I loved that car.  It gave me freedom. It got pretty decent gas mileage.  My Mitsubishi Eclipse was shaped like a sports car even though it had a four-cylinder engine. It had a power button, which made me feel like James Bond.

Two years ago, the car didn’t pass the California smog test.  The mechanic tweaked some things for me and got it to pass so I drove it around for another two years.  My car did not pass the smog check a second time because it needed a new engine.  The car would have been worth $100 dollars in trade in if I fixed it.  The science of economics trumped the emotional value, society found me foolish for keeping it as long as I did.  Friends and coworkers heckled me.  The car was termed a gross polluter.  It was time for it to go.  It easily qualified for a program the state of California has for people who can’t let go of their gross polluting cars. This program bribes people like me to take these gross polluters for dismantling.  We drove the gross polluter forty miles (which seemed ironic to me) to an approved dismantler.  They inspected my once pretty car, and wrote its fate all over its body.  My boyfriend said it was as if they put a toe tag on it before wheeling it to the morgue.  I got a little misty eyed as we watched it round the corner, never to be seen again.  I bought a shiny new car last month, but it doesn’t feel like it is mine the way my Eclipse felt like a part of me.  A chapter in my life is complete.

 

This afternoon, I decided to indulge myself to make myself feel better.  Tonight is “Lights out Santa Barbara”.  This event is a citywide conservation event where residents are asked to turn off their lights between 8pm-9pm for global warming awareness. We plan to light a couple of candles and play a board game tonight.  I thought it would be fun to have sweets while we play our game.  Making sweets always brightens my mood so I figured it would be positive in a couple of different ways.

 

pumpkin-currant-cookies.jpg

Baking and Books is a blog I love to go to.  Ariela is an avid reader and always has wonderful historical trivia to go with the foods she cooks.  She is a talented photographer, baker and writer, which makes it fun to stop by and see what she is up to.  Last week, she made Pumpkin currant cookies.  I was dreaming about these cookies all week!  These cookies already had all of the healthy goodie attributes that I like to have in my baked goods.  The only thing I did different was to use a full two cups of whole-wheat pastry flour instead of half white flour and since this is a no walnut household, I substituted pecans.  I will send you over to her blog for the recipe for the pumpkin currant cookies since I am lazy and they are perfect and you’ll enjoy her blog…. But wait!  Before you go…

 

I also made candy today.  I was ripping up old magazines the other day before recycling them and I came across a recipe I was dying to make but never got around to.  Being lazy, I did not want to go to the store even though I did not exactly have the right ingredients.  The candy turned out really good regardless.   This was a super easy recipe.  It was also a forgiving recipe.  I had evaporated cane juice but not enough for candy so I had to use brown sugar too.  I did not have mild molasses I had black strap molasses.  If you have kids, go ahead and make this for them.  Blackstrap molasses is loaded with minerals and vitamin B6 so this candy is a little better for them than commercial candy.

 

molasses-sponge-candy.jpg

Molasses Sponge Candy

Adapted from a recipe which appeared in the April, 2002 edition of Gourmet magazine

 

1 ¼ cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

 

¼ cup dark brown sugar

 

1/3 cup water

 

3 tbsp unsalted butter

 

¼ tsp cream of tartar

 

½ cup blackstrap molasses

 

2 ½ tsp baking soda

 

Line bottom and sides of a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil, then butter or oil the foil.

 

Bring sugar, water, butter, and cream of tartar to a boil in a deep 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring until syrup registers 265°F (hard-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Add molasses (don’t stir) and continue to boil undisturbed until syrup registers 295°F (hard-crack stage), 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and sift baking soda over syrup, then whisk to incorporate. (Use caution: mixture will bubble vigorously.)

 

Immediately pour syrup into lined baking pan and cool completely. Lift candy in foil from pan, then discard foil and break candy into pieces.

A once secret hot sauce

jalapeno-hot-sauce.jpg

Today let’s time travel back to 1998.  I was trapped in a job that did not make me happy.  I answered phones for the cable company.  I am still at this company.  I love the company I work for, don’t get me wrong but answering phones for any company can be a trying experience.  At one point, I loved answering the phones.  When I first joined my employer we were very focused on customer service.  I loved customer service.  Back then I was a sweet and kind person, not yet coarsened by years of abuse by strangers who don’t care how they treat the disembodied voice on the phone.  After a couple of years, my company went from being a privately held company to a publicly held company.  We went from a pure customer service focus to a heavy sales focus.  I am in no ways a sales person.  I have a hard time getting into the mind set that making someone spend money on something they did not ask me for is in their best interest.  All good sales people need to believe they are doing what is right for the customer.  I couldn’t do that.  Once the focus of the job changed, I became miserable and wanted to find a way out.  A friend and coworker took computer classes and managed to escape into our Information Technology department.  She was very happy there.  I decided it was time for training.

 

I have always thought of myself as having a creative bent.  When I was young, I wanted to be an actress and my first attempt at college took me to drama school.  I went back to school in 1997 to take computer classes and discovered that our junior college was starting to heavily get into multi media.  Computers and art!  Sign me up!  Alas, I found out that at the time, fledgling webmasters were a dime a dozen and they were getting paid less than I could make answering phones.  I live in an expensive resort community so I had to buckle down and take the less exciting sorts of computer classes that would help me get an information technology job, which I did.  I moved to a department were the work is still stressful but much more rewarding.  I am happier now.

 

In 1998, before I became practical, I took a web design class.  The web was still getting off the ground at that point.  Some people were still putting together websites by hand with HTML code.  I put together a chili pepper website for the class that I was very proud of.  The site is no longer live on the web but it still lives on my hard drive.  Here is the home page.  Recognize the chili banner?  I drew that.  I still like it so much I used it on my blog. 

cpw1.jpg

Here is the fancy part.  I have java script that causes the links to glow a fiery red when you mouse over them.  I was very, very proud of that. 😀

 

 cpw2.jpg

 

At the time, I was looking everywhere for content to put on my web page.  I was talking to my Mom one day and I told her about my project for school.  My Mom suddenly starts telling me how to make a jalapeno hot sauce.  I sit there a little stunned while I quickly try to write it down.  My Mom is from Guatemala but the whole time I am growing up she rarely cooked Hispanic food.  We ate like any other American family on our block:  Spaghetti, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, roast chicken, steak, hamburgers, etc.  She would also make plenty of non-kid friendly food that my New Yorker dad who grew up between the 30’s and 50’s would like such as grilled liver and onions and baked trout

 

 Needless to say, on those days I would hover over at my best friend’s house like a homeless waif at dinnertime until someone would take pity on me and invite me to stay.  Sure we would sometimes eat beans and tortillas if money was tight and I can remember her making chili rellenos and chilaquiles.  Avocados and salsa were not strangers.  But she never made these things on a daily basis like most Hispanic moms would.  When she rattled off this hot sauce recipe, all I could think was, “she never made this for us!  How does she have this memorized?”  My Mom cooks without recipes.  Her food is good but not fancy.  I wish I could do that.  I am getting better, but I can’t dictate a recipe to you off of the top of my head.  Anyway, I was a little skeptical about how this salsa would turn out.  I went ahead and made it and it was really good!  It is especially nice on scrambled eggs nestled in a warm tortilla.  I went ahead and published my website online in order to pass my class (the teacher wanted our final projects to be live) and my Mom’s hot sauce was good enough to share with the world.

 

I hadn’t made it in years but every fall when the Jalapenos are red, I mean to make it.  Last week at he farmer’s market, one of my favorite farmers had red jalapenos for one dollar a pound.  I scooped up a pound of them.  He was shocked; most people buy a couple of pennies worth of jalapenos at a time.  He wondered what I would make.  I declared:  “Hot sauce!”   I amused him, I could tell.  This hot sauce is worth the work. 

 

If you decide to make this hot sauce there are rules.  Please do not break the rules.  They are for your own good.

  1. Make sure to run the fan above your stove and open a window or two.  Fumes from the chilies and the vinegar will make you sneeze, cough,  and may give you watery eyes.
  2. Evacuate anything or anyone you love from the area.  Significant others, children, pets, Herbert.  The fumes and smells will cause complaints
  3. Wear gloves when working with chilies.
  4. Whether you believe me or not about #3.  (#3 is the rule I always break.  I have also been known to use caustic household chemicals without gloves.  Do as I say, not as I do).  Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your gloves or your naked hands if you refuse to listen.  I repeat, do not allow jalapeno juice near any mucus membranes!
  5. This sauce will splatter, be careful not to get burned.
  6. Don’t be scared. Make this hot sauce.

 Carmen’s jalapeno hot sauce

1 lb ripe (red) jalapeno chilies, seeds removed and coarsely chopped

 

1 cup apple cider vinegar

 

1 cup water

 

5 whole garlic cloves

 

1 small onion, roughly chopped

 

2 bay leaves

 

4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

 

1 – 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano

 

½ tsp salt

 

1 tbsp olive oil

 

Place all of the ingredients except for the oil in a medium sized saucepan and simmer until soft, 18 to 20 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Remove the bay leaves and carefully, transfer the jalapeno mixture to a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Wash and dry your saucepan.  Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat and then carefully add the puree.  The sauce may splatter when it hits the hot oil.  Stir.  Heat the sauce over medium heat to a strong simmer and then reduce to a low simmer.  Simmer for up to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce.  During this time the sauce may splatter.  I use a splatter guard but it really doesn’t help.  Try to cook this on the lowest simmer you can while still having the liquid evaporate and the sauce thicken while minimizing the mess and chance of getting burned.  Cool the sauce at room temperature and then store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.

    

Let us become Acquainted

Hello Dear Reader,

 

Welcome to the first day of my Blog.  My name is Mimi.  Cooking is something I am passionate about.  When I was young, I would look through the 1950’s edition of the Joy of Cooking that my mother had purchased at a garage sale and come up with such culinary delights as glazed carrots or peanut butter cookies. I was always very proud of myself when I recreated these recipes.  There is a joy in creation even if one is following instructions.  Later on, during my first attempt at College, I had a roommate who was a wonderful cook who taught me how to make Filipino Lumpia and fed me wonderful, exotic things that came from the land she grew up in. She gave me the gift of an adventurous palate.   I went through a vegetarian phase shortly after that.  During the eighties, vegetarian food was not difficult to find in California restaurants but needing to feed myself on a regular basis took me down the path of needing to fully learn how to make my way in the kitchen if I wanted to eat well on a regular basis.  During that time, as my palate developed, I matured from drinking sweet white wine to fully appreciating fine red wine.  As time marched on, I learned to love all kinds food including meat and began to enjoy cooking a variety of food.

 

 As I read over that first paragraph again, I sound to myself like some unapologetic Foodie.  The dark and horrible truth about my life is that during the nineties, I got a job that was stressful and required me to sit for eight hours a day.  They fed us junk food to keep us happy and reward us for selling their products.  I was stressed out and ate fast food every day.  I had no energy and stopped exercising.  I still liked good food and went to good restaurants as well as maintaining my junk food habit.  I gained seventy pounds during this time. Cooking became something I did infrequently because eating out was so rewarding and so much less stressful.  I am now in my early forties and I am trying to save my life.  I have stopped eating fast food.  I now limit my restaurant dining and when I do allow a splurge, I try to order healthier food and I try to take some of it home in an effort to limit my portions.  In the days of my vegetarianism, I ate what I ate for environmental reasons.  I am now finding my way back to eating for political, environmental, and health reasons.  I have slowly lost around thirty pounds since I have changed my habits, and I am now exercising again and hope to become healthy and active the way I was so many years ago.  I have slowly begun to realize that what is good for me is good for the planet too.

 

 Let’s step back in time a moment.  When I was young, my family had an odd relationship with food.  My Dad had health problems.  He was actually a little nuts.  Because of his health problems, we were a little poor.  We would buy really bad food with coupons.  My parents were the coupon King and Queen.  It was the seventies and my Dad was trying to fix himself with diet and exercise but we could only afford to fix him with diet as far as our food dollars would stretch.  As a consequence, we might be eating brown rice or peanut butter on whole grain bread but we would also have Velveeta and boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese made with whatever margarine was on sale.  My Dad would be eating a Spartan diet one day and gorging on sweets the next if the food budget would allow it.  In some ways, I am my Father’s daughter.  I have a conflicting relationship with food.  One thing you can count on is that I cook things from scratch and I will ask you to follow me in using the best ingredients you can find.

 

So there you have it.  If you are not ready to run away from this strange woman and her novice attempt at food writing, I heartily invite you to stay and discover what will be in store for us.  I am a bit cynical but I can also be fun.  Together we will embark on a food journey.  I don’t exactly know what this Blog will be like an hour from now, a week from now or six months from now.  I’ll try not to step up on a soapbox to often, but you may have to put up with some lecturing.  I am getting older and I tend to pontificate.  I’ll try to include many recipes, but things could get a little crazy.  I cook by the book most of the time but when I do run away with things and experiment, I have a difficult time recreating what I have done down to the proper measurement.  I will need to learn to help you follow along so please forgive me as I learn to measure things out.  

Enjoy!