Oh Joan

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight years or so, you’ve probably heard of the AMC hit series Mad Men. Neil and I are devotees, and we’re enjoying the final half of the final season this spring. In a recent episode, my favorite character, Joan Holloway, orders room service in a hotel. “I’d like a grapefruit, a glass of skim milk, and a pot of coffee.” After a short pause, she smiles to herself, and says, “… and some french toast.”

This one’s for you, Joan.

This is the raspberry french toast from Make It Ahead. It’s really good hot out of the oven, but it’s equally good served cold, like bread pudding. Like Joan Holloway, it’s rich and delicious, but also surprisingly colorful. I’m not going to say anything about easy, because that would be rude to my girl Joan.

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Tri Berry Crumbles

I have a whole backlog of recipes I’ve cooked over the past several weeks, but our software is not on speaking terms with wordpress, and pictures are just a pain to upload. Once I get them uploaded, the format is all wonky. For this post, I was able to upload a photo, but I can’t seem to update the index. Boo! We’ll get it fixed, but until then, I’m keeping a running list of the recipes I’ve made to share with you – some from Ina, and some from the smitten kitchen.

I made the tri berry crumbles (from Make It Ahead) on Palm Sunday weekend, when we had guests in town. The fresh berries weren’t all the best, so I ended up using a combination of fresh and frozen berries. These weren’t all so different from other berry crisps in Ina’s canon – in fact, I’m pretty sure we could create an internet engine or dice game with key words from Ina’s previous cookbooks to guess what’s coming next: “tri-berry,” “honey vanilla,” “chocolate mocha,” “potato fennel” on one dice, and “muffins,” “gratin” and “crumble” on the other dice. She seems to keep finding new uses for the same ingredients in different combinations. Whatever works, right?

It was kind of fun to serve them in individual dishes. I don’t have a ton of little dishes that all match, but that was part of the fun. I wouldn’t say that the flavor suffered any from frozen versus fresh berries, but the appearance might have been a little bit off from the frozen berries. No matter when you cover the whole mess up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

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Guest Post by Kelly! Wild Rice Salad

If I’m going to finish all of these recipes before the End Times, I’m going to need a little lot of help from my friends. My sweet friend Kelly, who blogs at Jet and Bean asked me a few weeks ago if I’d ever made the Wild Rice Salad from How Easy is That? I told her that I hadn’t, and then shamelessly asked her to write a blog post for me if she decided to make it. Lucky for me (and for you all) she said yes! If you see something that I haven’t covered yet on Thimagee List and you’re interested in contributing a guest post, please let me know!

…and apologies to Kelly and readers. The formatting is all wonky because WordPress and our outdated software aren’t playing well together. I have several posts lined up and waiting… Thanks for your patience!

A perfect Easter lunch is one that shouts, “Christ is risen! Rejoice!” but can also be made the

day before and is ready to eat within thirty minutes of arriving home from church.  We

sometimes get it in our heads that salmon is the thing to eat on Easter, so I was looking for a

rice dish that could be made the day before and served cold.  Ina Garten’s Wild Rice Salad

looked perfect, both for its simplicity and its use of pecans.  We (happily) have a surplus of

pecans.

The salad was simple and quick to toss together.  I used red wine vinegar instead of

raspberry vinegar and threw in a little extra of everything except the oranges.  This was my

first experience with trying to segment an orange like a chef on a reality show, and it proved

to be just as tricky as it looks.  Many orange segments were lost in the process.

The end result was a nice dish that was overshadowed by everything else we ate for lunch on

Easter.  It had to compete with broccoli and bacon salad and parmesan baked zucchini, and

that’s a tough heat.   We ate the leftover wild rice salad on Monday night with chicken and

vegetables, and gave it a much more glowing review.  It’s not necessarily a holiday worthy

recipe, but much nicer than what I would usually serve with chicken and vegetables on a

Monday, which is probably just a glass of water.  It’s a good make ahead side for a weeknight

family dinner.

A terrible dish is one that is less than the sum of its parts, like a bowl of Cheerios and

ketchup.  A fantastic dish is one that is so much more than the sum of its parts, like a

s’more.  Do I ever just want to eat a marshmallow?  I do not.  But would I devour a s’more at

any given moment?  Yes.  Definitely.  A good weeknight dish is on that is equal to the sum of

its parts, like a cold salad that tastes like wild rice with fruit, pecans, and craisins.

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Grilled New York Strip Steaks

It’s spring!

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And to me, spring means grilling weather. I suppose we could have broken out the grill all winter long, but it was kind of wet and dreary, and I guess we’re still adjusting to living in a place where we could cook outside in January.

These New York Strip Steaks (from Make It Ahead) called for a weird spice rub. Coffee, brown sugar, chili powder, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic. Actually, it called for garlic powder, but I used fresh garlic, because I don’t remember the last time we had garlic powder in the house.

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I didn’t know what to expect. Coffee? On a steak? And, you might remember that I have some a lot of difficulty with the grill. So, I enlisted my handsome helper, and armed him with a timer and a meat thermometer.

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The steaks were perfect. The combination of ingredients in the spice rub were just right, and we’re definitely bookmarking this for future use.

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Do you know what else happens in Houston in the Spring? The rodeo! Specifically, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Ben called it the “radio,” and it was so cute that I didn’t try too hard to correct him. We went at the end of the kids’ spring break, and had so much fun. It’s not unlike the Minnesota State Fair in a lot of ways. We rode the light rail from Palmer to the rodeo, which was huge excitement in and of itself for little Ben. The weather was great, and we saw so many cool and interesting things. And, there was a giant slide. Who doesn’t love a giant slide?

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Blueberry Bran Muffins

I don’t know what took me so long to make these (from Make It Ahead), but it was probably the fact that they call for wheat bran, which doesn’t usually appear in our kitchen. I had wheat germ, and oat bran, but not wheat bran. I found some in the bulk section at Whole Foods, and made these last night.

This might be my favorite muffin recipe, ever. I wasn’t too jazzed about them at first – they don’t look like much, even in the glossy pages of the professionally photographed cookbook. But the combination of Greek yogurt, honey (I used Greek honey from Phoenicia), and fresh blueberries, along with the heartiness of the wheat bran … wow. They’re a little bit addictive.

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I was a little worried at first, because the recipe says that it yields 12 muffins, but I made 23 decent-sized muffins out of the recipe. I’m taking a dozen over to a friend today, because she just had her third baby (superwoman!), and I signed up to bring her dinner for tonight. I love, love, love bringing food to new moms. I remember the extraordinary gratitude I felt when we brought each of our babies home, and people showed up at the door with food. I was starving from nursing 24/7, and too exhausted to even think about boiling water. If that sounds awful, it really wasn’t. I was too blissed out on baby-love to mind too much. Muffins might be the perfect post-partum food gift. These have protein from eggs and Greek yogurt, fiber from the wheat bran, and antioxidants in the berries. A person could theoretically eat them with one hand while feeding her baby. And they’re so portable and easy to bring, and can be frozen if there’s already enough food in the house. Usually, older siblings like them, too, although my kids are weird and wouldn’t touch these. More for me!

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Retro Night, Revised

Like most children of the 1970s and ’80s, Neil and I grew up eating sloppy joes on the regular. When I found out that Manwich (the chauvinistically-named canned sloppy joe sauce of our youth) contains high fructose corn syrup, I went in search of a recipe for a homemade version several years ago. It’s evolved over the years, and now we even use bison instead of ground beef.

In honor of our retro sloppy joe night, I made the Iceberg Salad in Make it Ahead. It calls for blue cheese, so naturally, I used feta. Like our sloppy joe recipe, it has evolved from its 1970s iceberg ancestors, but it still retains its vintage charm.

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Of course, once I’m in a vintage mood, there’s very little that can stop me from combing through old cookbooks. So, yeah.

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Summer Filet of Beef with Bearnaise Mayonnaise and Carrot & Cauliflower Puree

Do we eat like this all the time?

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Heck no.

But it’s a nice treat when we do.

The summer filet of beef with bernaise mayonnaise is not so different from the other slow-roasted beef tenderloin recipe that Ina has published before. The bernaise sauce is simply amazing, and really easy to make. Why the splurge? Even with pricey ingredients, it’s a lot less expensive than eating out, and the leftovers make amazing sandwiches. When I think about what we spend at the deli counter for freshly-sliced roast beef, this seemed like a steal by comparison. And I had to have some kind of incentive for Neil to try glorified baby food, or what looks suspiciously like cat barf in the photo. I have to say, the carrot & cauliflower puree was the sleeper hit of this meal. It doesn’t look like much (next time I’ll use the food processor instead of the called-for food mill for a smoother look), but the browned butter made it completely addicting.

Besides, it’s spring! We’re celebrating a great spring break, and most of us are finally sort of starting to feel better after the worst winter for illness that I can remember. At least the dwindling supply of antibiotics in the fridge would lead us to think that we ought to be feeling better… can you tell that I’m afraid to jinx it? We’re well enough to cook, anyway, which is something to celebrate.

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