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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You Won't Believe What You Can Find on the Internet

A few months ago Bob and I were able to sneak out of the house for a late night dinner.
One of our favorite late-night spots is Mimi's cafe. It's simple comfort food. On this particular night, we sampled their corn chowder (usually we opt for their French Onion soup, which is also very good). "This is good," Bob said. "You should see if you can find a knock-off recipe on the internet.

We have been truly amazed at what we can reverse engineer from our favorite restaurants. We could guess many of the corn chowder ingredients just by looking closely--corn (obviously), celery, cream, potatoes, onions as. When we got home, I googled Mimi's corn chowder.

And guess what? The first link referenced was Mimi's own website. We couldn't believe it was so easy.

This has become a family favorite. As I've made it a number of times, I've modified the ingredients (slightly) and the cooking method (quite a bit) from the official version. When I make it this way, it almost always comes out the perfect consistency--not to thick, not too thin.

Mimi's Corn Chowder (Modified by Kathy)
Yields 2 1/2 quarts (This is enough for a normal family. I double it for our gang).
4 Tbs. butter or margarine
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, large dice
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups hot water
2 cups raw potato, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes
1 quart half and half
3 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 pinch white pepper

Melt butter in a large pot. Add onion and celery. Saute until onion is translucent. Add flour; mix until ingredients make a roux, like this:

When flour is absorbed into butter, add half and half gradually, mixing as you add it. Simmer soup for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. The soup should thicken a bit as you cook it.

Add hot water and potato. Bring to a boil. Add corn and remaining seasonings; simmer for ten to fifteen minutes until the potatoes are slightly soft. If the soup is too thick, add a little milk. If it's too thin, cook it five to ten minutes longer.

The finished product:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Health or Flavor?

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I was working on a food blog. "Is it healthy food, or food with flavor?" she asked. "You know you can't have both."

Do I really have to choose? I've been working hard to be healthier the last few months, and have been very careful about what I've eaten (well, on most days. Occasionally I "go on vacation").

In the process, I've found that I enjoy simple food pleasures as much as I've enjoyed overdoing in the past. If I put the same amount of work into a salad and a nice dressing that I put into french fries and the accompanying fry sauce, it's actually as good (especially if you factor in the guilt differential).

This dilemma reminded me of a recipe. Last fall, Bob and I went to Hawaii on vacation. We cooked almost all of our meals in the kitchen in our room (I know this would not be much of a vacation for some people. It was for us). We bought all kinds of things that we normally wouldn't buy, as they aren't the right size or price tradeoff for our big family. One of our favorites: A spreadable butter. We loved the flavor. We loved being able to spread it without taking it out of the fridge hours before dinner.

A few weeks after we returned, we had dinner with a group of friends. Our friend Wendy brought incredible homemade rolls (I'll post my version of her recipe later), and also some homemade, spreadable butter.

We call the result miracle butter. We started liking it because of the flavor and the spreadability. Wendy pointed out that it's also somewhat healthier than butter; we figured out on our own that it's also a little less expensive. Hence the name, magic butter.

Magic Butter

The only ingredients are butter and canola oil. Wendy suggested equal amounts; we've found that at those proportions the butter gets too runny for our tastes when left on the table during a meal. So we opt for 3/4 cup oil to 1 cup butter. I let the butter sit out for the better part of a day until it's soft. Then I mix all ingredients (make that both ingredients) in a blender. Keep mixing until there are no big butter chunks. Then pour from the blender into a two-cup container (Bob was my hand model for this photo).

After it's refrigerated for a few hours, it should come out ready to use and looking like this:

We can make vast quantities of this stuff at home and not have to worry about going through a tiny container at every meal!

Friday, February 20, 2009

My biggest life change ever

My biggest life change ever is represented by, of all things, a gallon jug of mayonaise.

Let me explain. Six years ago I was a 41-year-old, single, hard-working professional. I traveled a lot, cooked a little, and ate very little mayonaise. If I bought mayonaise at all, it was in 8-ounce jars. It was light mayonaise. And I usually threw the bottle away when it was still half full because it was long past its expiration date.

In 2003, everything changed. I quit my job, started my own business, and married Bob. Bob was no ordinary middle-aged single guy. He was a widower with seven children. And seven children (make that seven skinny children) eat a lot of mayonaise.

From a food perspective (as from almost all other perspectives), life for me is much richer these days. We are lucky that the seven children like food as much as we do. Food is a big part of our family's culture. Birthdays revolve around favorite breakfasts, dinners, desserts. We have a unique menu for our Christmas Eve appetizer parties. To my knowledge, we never dispose of expired mayonaise.

I was a good cook when I was single. I liked inviting friends and family over for a party or a meal. With nine of us around the dinner table, every night is like a party.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

About This Blog

You don't have to look very far to realize that almost everyone has a food blog. Some of them list favorite restauarants (and others least favorite). Some tell you what the blogger is having for dinner tonight. Some list recipes that the blogger has never actually made before, but that sound like they would taste good. Others supply ideas for eating within the bounds of a specific diet or regimen.

For my family, food is art. We're snobs. We use very little Cream of Mushroom soup. Food is how we celebrate, why we congregate, and the one place where we all participate. We try to eat in ways that make us healthy, but it's even more important to eat in ways that make us happy.

There's nothing pathological about it, at least nothing that has been diagnosed so far by qualified professionals. We eat together almost every night. We try to make every meal a special occasion. We want our kids (along with the friends and family we invite to join our table) to find joy in the time together. It's a way for us to learn more about the world. It's a way for us to have extraordinary adventures right in our kitchen. There's a story for every meal, and this is where we intend to tell them.

We want to share that with you. We'll include recipes, restaurant experiences, cooking tips, and thoughts and feelings about food. And we invite you to plunge right in and talk with us.