Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: Spaghetti-os for Grown-ups: An Uber-Frugal Farmers Market Dinner

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

Okay, so my title had everything to do with how many hyphens I could fit into one sentence.

But it also had a lot to do with the Michigan economy, cutting back, and eating local. Oh, and the dinner itself was delicious.

So here's what I had to start with:

In case my photography isn't crystal clear (and when is it?), this is a picture of lovely Farmers Market radishes and baby yellow squash and the end of some almost-done garlic. I also had a bag of $.99 anelletti and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano from Trader Joe's. Oh and, as always, olive oil.

And bacon. Mmmmmmm.... bacon.

Truly, though, this was it, and here's how the cash flow broke down:

1/2 box of organic baby yellow squash from Frog Holler: $1.50
3 radishes from bunch of 12 $ .37
three pieces of bacon from Ernst Farm: $1.00
1/4 bag of anelletti: $ .25
1/7 tub of parmigiano reggiano $ .71
3 cloves garlic, pinch sea salt, 1 TBS olive oil $ .20 (approx.)
Grand total....... $4.03
Divided by 2 (serves 2) $2.02/serving

And filling... did I mention filling? It also sends me back to my childhood, because this dish combines the taste of bacon/mac and cheese with the texture of those little round things that came in the can with tomato sauce, and it manages to be mostly veggies, so - win-win, right?

Oh. Yeah.

Here is the finished product:

Added bonus? 20 minutes to prep and cook, start to finish. I kid you not. Oh, Jen is feeling pleased with herself tonight.

Spaghetti-os for Grown-ups


3 large radishes, cut in half and sliced thin
3 baby summer squash, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 pieces of bacon
about 1 TBS olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt (or any favorite salt)
parmesan to taste (I used a TBS, D used about 3 TBS) - I recommend splurging for real parmigiano reggiano because it tastes so much better and with this little, it's not going to break your budget.
1/4 package of pasta of choice (but can't really be spaghetti-os without anelletti, which are little round "o's" of pasta)


1. Put water on to boil. Prep veggies. Heat olive oil in pan at medium heat.
NOTE: Bacon can be done two ways - you can chop it up and put it in with the veggies and use FAR less olive oil, or you can place it between two sheets of paper toweling and microwave it, 1 1/2 minutes on each side (the second method is less eco-friendly, but probably healthier in terms of removing saturated fat, etc.). I used the second method. If you do the first method, chop your bacon, too. If you use the second method, just set up your bacon and wait for a later step.
2. When water is boiling pour in pasta and set timer. It will take 13 minutes to cook the pasta, give or take. Put garlic and radishes in pan to saute. (And add the bacon, too, if you're going to put it in the pan with the veggies).
3. After about a minute, add in the baby summer squash slices to the saute and put the bacon in the microwave (and cook it, as described above).
4. Stir veggies from time to time, and stir the pasta, so it doesn't stick to your pasta pot (the anelletti do tend to stick).
5. When the timer sounds, drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Turn off the saute pan (the veggies should be a lovely, caramelized brown). Take the bacon out of the microwave and crumble it. (If you cooked the bacon in with the veggies, then drain the pan of oil before adding everything together in the next step).
6. Toss all ingredients together in a large pasta bowl and sprinkle with a dash of salt.
7. Serve with parmesan to taste.

Nutritional Info

* Servings Per Recipe: 2
* Amount Per Serving
* Calories: 289.1

* Total Fat: 10.5 g
* Cholesterol: 12.0 mg
* Sodium: 257.1 mg
* Total Carbs: 37.1 g
* Dietary Fiber: 4.2 g
* Protein: 12.4 g

As always, nutrition info supplied by the recipe calculator function at Sparkrecipes.com.

Enjoy! More radical radish adventures next week.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Some Bloggy Stuff

Summer, for me, is clean-up time. During the school year, my house slowly grows into a whirlwind of marked papers, well-worn books, assignments never quite brought to fruition, household projects that eventually get marked for "summer", etc.

Anno speaks of the massive summer projects she undertakes with her husband - planting 400 trees, putting in a vegetable garden, building a new heating element.

I'm proud when I get my desk cleaned off.

Part of this summer clean out is working on all things blog. Learning about new blogs, thinking about my own.

Each summer I feel I'm going to overhaul the site. Um... we'll see.

What I have been doing is finding out about some wonderful new blogs, and trying to update both my reader and my blogroll.

I have one major frustration:

I absolutely can't comment on some of my favorite new blogs. I'm not the only one in this boat. There is a major bug via Blogger and some of us are just plain blocked when we try to comment in Blogger comment formats where the blog owner has chosen the "embedded below post" option in their comment settings. I've been all over bulletin boards, etc., about this topic and there only seems to be one "fix" - switch to pop-up or full page comments. Once this happens, the stupid "user id" thing disappears and then folks can comment again.

I know, I know, you blog owners are already getting comments - yes, but you might be getting even MORE comments if we could all actually access your blog!

(And, of course, these are bloggers who don't include e-mail contacts on their profile and/or their e-mail contacts don't seem to work).

It's your choice, obviously, but just sayin'.

There are three blogs, in particular, that I read every. day. but can't comment on, so if any of my regular readers know a way to bring this to these folks' attention, I would be very grateful:

WaystationOne - Brian shares his frequently brilliant writing and thoughtful comments on raising his sons and on life in general.

Hungry Like the Wolf Rita and Lola cook up San Francisco delights in their tiny, NYC dorm kitchens. These young women can seriously cook, and they provide great commentary as well.

Tales from the Fairy Blogmother So this is the most ridiculous - I can't even comment on Shan's blog - and she's the host for What's Cooking Wednesday! She's also a bang-up cook, wonderful craftswoman and has many interesting insights and all I can add to her blog is my Mr. Linky links.

Okay... enough of that. And if anyone can help me in terms of those of us with the "Blogger bug" or who can contact these three bloggers and let them know of this dilemma, I would be extremely grateful.

Secondly: generosity.

Lola of
Aglio, Olio and Peperoncino has graciously bestowed the following lovely award on me:

The Splash Award is given to "alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive and inspiring blogs".

I'd like to bestow this award on some of my recent new finds in the blogging world:

I'm skipping
WaystationOne, because Brian already received this from Lola. I'd certainly send it Lola's way, but obviously, she already has one, too.

To Lola and Rita of Hungry Like the Wolf for all the reasons listed above.

To Jackie of Pham Fatale. Jackie is a French-Vietnamese, Paris-raised, San Franciscan who lives with her Indian husband. Just looking at her pedigree, you know her recipes are out of this world. Her blog is also beautifully designed, and she really takes you through each recipe step-by-step.

To Michele of My Italian Grandmother. Michele started her blog as a tribute to her Italian grandmother, who passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 98. She taught many cooking secrets to Michele, but she never measured nor wrote down her recipes, so this is Michele's attempt to recreate those recipes, as well as add many of her own. Michele's on a trip right now, so if you visit, just check previous entries.

To Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums. I think many of you already know Rosa, but I was only recently able to find the time to go check her out thoroughly, and what a lovely blog she has! Fabulous recipes, adorable cat pictures and extraordinary photography, both of her cooking projects and of her Geneva, Switzerland surroundings. I feel like I get to take a vacation every time I visit her.

To Laura of Lolalina: Find Your Sweet Life. Given this time of great difficulty worldwide, isn't it nice to find a little corner where everything is lovely? Laura dedicates herself to finding the sweetness in life, and she has a beautiful aesthetic sense, as well. Another great "vacation" spot for me.

To Myra Klarman of Relish: Life. Work. Pictures. Myra is an extremely talented professional photographer from Ann Arbor. Myra gives her unique visual take on various events in and around Ann Arbor, and I am in awe of her ability to capture our city and our people with such clarity and love.

To Noelle of Simmer Down (a food lover's blog). Noelle is a musician who loves food and loves sharing her passion for food through the beautiful recipes and events captured in her blog. She also hosts a virtual culinary book club called "Chew on This!".

I hope that you all enjoy these blogs as much as I do. Happy reading!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Local Love Fridays: The Coffee House Creamery Family

Talus, Natalie, Sophie and Toren Park

I sat down with Natalie Park, owner of the Coffee House Creamery, and talked about family.

Family permeates everything about the Coffee House Creamery, and that's one of the reasons I love it so. It is truly a spot, as the old Cheers theme song goes, "Where everybody knows your name".

"One thing that sets us apart is the service – the staff is really good. I just got a really nice compliment from a former business owner who talked about how great the service is and I passed it via e-mail to all my employees – we have really good coffee, really good food, really good ice cream, but it’s the face at the counter that brings people in." This was Natalie's response when I asked her what makes Coffee House Creamery different from the myriad other coffeehouses in Ann Arbor, and what she said couldn't be more true.

The thing is, Coffee House Creamery does have great coffee, fresh, local baked goods, and lovely ice cream - there's no stinting on quality here, but it is the fact that the Park family opens up their hearts to the community that really makes this place special.

One of the points of starting Coffee House Creamery was so that Natalie, a former teacher, would be more available to her children, Sophie, 8 and Toren, 10. What she ended up with was extended family through her group of very loyal customers. This week her husband, Talus, was out of town, and she ended up going out to dinner with a seventy-six-year-old regular who's become an extended part of the Park family, and spent the evening with a couple of her employees on another night. How many folks do you know who like to hang out with their boss outside of work hours?

In addition to the warm family atmosphere, this place has serious coffee drink chops. I was delighted to see my favorite drink from Italy, espresso con panna, on the menu. This is the only place I've found it other than North Beach in S.F. or Little Italy in NYC. And it completely rocks - perfect, smooth, European-style espresso with freshly made whipped cream.

Natalie and Talus went to Barista school to perfect their technique, Talus, an engineer, designed and built their coffee filtration system, which is perfectly balanced so that the coffee is soft, but not flat, and they have their own custom roast espresso by Magnum roasters of Nunica, Michigan. Another coffee treat that has become a huge hit with the regulars is their special "Blueberry Crumble" blend from Magnum.

For those of you with less caffeine-generated tastes (and possibly with a gaggle of small children), the 24 flavors of Hershey's premium ice cream are certainly enticing after a night at the movies (Coffee House Creamery is just opposite Quality 16 at the edge of the parking lot there). Natalie and Talus picked out Hershey's as their store brand because, for them, the taste takes them back to their childhoods in West Virginia. With Hershey, Pennsylvania being just a short distance over the border, this is truly a taste from the past. There are some amazing flavors here - D and I are particularly addicted to the Gold Medal, and recent special flavors have included Red Velvet and Mint Moose Tracks (which is to die for, truly). And what six-year-old can't be coaxed into a smile at the thought of a Superman cone?

There are also wonderful baked goods, made by Natalie, as well as Barry Bagels, home cooked oatmeal, several sandwiches, and a soup of the day.

And you can always play a game or two.

So the next time you need a cooling off from the summer's heat, or just want to get to know one of the friendliest places in Ann Arbor, I'd recommend my favorite hangout.

Coffee House Creamery, 3780 Jackson Road, Located directly in front of the Quality 16 Movie Theater. 734-222-0555 - M - Th - 7:00 - 10:00, Fri. 7:00 - 11:00, Sat. 8:00 - 11:00, Sun 10:30 - 9:00.

Also, for a fascinating look at Superman ice cream and its Michigan connections, see the wonderful new blog The Mitten.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: Summertime and the Living is Easy...

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

We're finally having gorgeous weather in Michigan - 85 degree days, few clouds in the sky, and the humidity hasn't really kicked in yet.


It's also that time of year, when each night Ann Arbor turns into one giant block party on the Ingalls Mall. It's the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and for those of us on a tight budget, it's Top of the Park time. Top of the Park deserves its own post - it's a great combination of local acts and some from farther reaches and each night, two bands and a movie or other later night entertainment are all provided for FREE. Yeah, take THAT, Michigan economy!

Since most TOP programs start at 7, the Eatwrite family wants to race through dinner and get down to where the action is. And that means dinner has to be quick.

These are two meals we've had this week that we've loved, and have been easy as the proverbial pie. They were also delicious, mostly due to the fact that the Ann Arbor Farmers market is starting to burst with local foods.

Both nights used many of the same ingredients and each dinner was prepared in under 30 minutes. No kidding. (Um, it does help that I'm a fast one with the chopping board). So... here they are:

Pasta with Chicken, Asparagus, Fresh Tomatoes and Basil


Leftover cooked chicken - about 1 split breast's worth, cut into bite-sized pieces
one large, in season tomato (we got ours from Carpenter's, which already has their wonderful organic tomatoes at the market)
a handful of Michigan asparagus, chopped into bite-sized pieces
a large, lovely organic Carpenter Farms tomato (or tomato of choice)
3 - 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin
a handful of Frog Holler basil, torn
olive oil
Pasta of choice
kosher salt and pepper to taste
parmigiano reggiano to taste for serving


1. Start the water for making the pasta.
2. Prep your veggies and chicken, while heating about a TBS olive oil in a pan at medium heat.
3. When the oil is hot, drop the garlic in for about 30 seconds until it releases wonderful aroma. Toss the pasta in the pasta pot (the water should be ready by now).
4. Toss in the asparagus with the garlic.
5. About a minute after that, toss in the fresh tomatoes and cooked chicken. Toss and coat well with the asparagus and garlic. Turn the heat up to medium high for the last 30 seconds or so.
6. Take pan off the heat and place chicken/asparagus/tomato mixture in a large bowl. Add basil, kosher salt and lots of pepper. Toss.
7. Drain pasta and run under cold water. Usually I could combine the pasta with the "sauce" at this point, but I don't for this.
8. Take your plate, pile it with as much pasta as you'd like, top that with a generous dollop of the sauce and top that with shaved parmigiano reggiano to taste.

Serves 2 hungry people. Can easily be doubled or stretched to serve three.

Eat, and run out the door for good music and dancing!

The next night, we had a great, grass fed flank steak to use up from TMZ Farm. I decided to make open-faced steak sandwiches and a corn/tomato/lime salad. We had leftover Florida corn from Father's Day, so it was perfect. Again, we used some Carpenter tomatoes and organic basil from Frog Holler.

Open-Faced Steak Sandwiches


1 - 2 slices of 1/2" thick sourdough per person
olive oil
garlic salt
dried parsley
12 - 16 oz flank steak
2 - 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
crimini mushrooms - about 2 cups
kosher salt

1 TBS canola oil
1/4 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
1 cup black currant juice or something similar
4 - 6 cloves crushed garlic (to taste)


1. Whisk together marinade ingredients. Place steak in marinade, let it marinate 4 - 12 hours.
2. When ready for dinner: wash and slice mushrooms, prep garlic. Preheat broiler. Slice bread and brush olive oil on top side of each piece. Sprinkle with garlic salt and parsley. Set aside.
3. Heat about 1/2 - 1 TBS oil in saute pan over medium heat. When hot, saute garlic for 30 seconds or so, until aroma is released. Add mushrooms. When the mushrooms are really well cooked, take off heat and sprinkle some kosher salt and lots of pepper over them.
4. While heating the pan for the saute, heat a grill plan to smoking. When you put in the garlic, put the steak on the pan. NOTE: Steak will stick, so if you have a way to brush your grill pan with some oil, please do. This can also be done on the grill over high, direct heat. Cook steak 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other for medium rare.
5. Take meat off the grill pan and let rest 5 minutes. Mushrooms will soon be ready. When you remove the meat from the grill, put the garlic toast under the broiler for about 2 minutes.
6. After toast is ready and meat has rested, slice the meat VERY THINLY against the grain. Pile meat on each slice of bread. Pile mushrooms on top of meat. Serve with Corn/Tomato/Lime salad.

Corn/Tomato/Lime Salad


kernels scraped off of two medium ears of corn
1 large tomato
1/4 fresh avocado, chopped (optional - I had this, D, who is allergic to avocadoes, did not - I added it separately)
fresh basil - a small handful, torn into pieces
1 tsp canola oil
juice from 1/2 largish lime
kosher salt to taste
a dash or two of chili powder or cumin

1. Before you do your other meal prep for the evening, combine all ingredients, stir a few times and let marinate while you do your other cooking.
2. Just before serving, stir a bit and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning. Enjoy!

This meal serves about 3 people. (I had one slice of the steak sandwich and a large serving of the salad, D and C both had two slices and some of the salad).

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Bit of This and That: Stratford, some really good coffee, and a great local book club

Stratford was wonderful. I'd highly recommend either of the performances we saw, both Cyrano de Bergerac and The Importance of Being Earnest. Colm Feore was brilliant as Cyrano, and I actually cried during the last scene, which is extremely unusual for me in a live theater setting. This was especially impressive, as the director chose not to cut one word of the final scene, and as those of you who are familiar with Cyrano know, it is probably the longest death scene in theater history. It could easily become a parody if not handled in the subtlest manner, and Mr. Feore did that beautifully.

Earnest was hysterical as always. The revelation here was the performance by Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. He was spot on, and several of the students we went with (and my own German daughter, S) didn't even realize she was being played by a male actor until the first intermission, when we told them. Ha! It was also fascinating to watch Mike Shara transform from the somewhat dull Christian of the day before to the sparkling, witty Algernon. I'm not saying he gave a dull performance, but again, he did justice to Christian's role.

I also have to acknowledge the fact that given my theater design roots, I was able to see the work of three of my design heroes: Santo Loquasto's sets and Alan Brodie's lighting for Cyrano, and Desmond Heeley's sets and costumes for Earnest. As per their reputations, Loquasto's set was as functional and brilliant as Heeley's work was over-the-top and simply gorgeous. What a total treat with the addition of being able to discuss it competently with C, who now understands the ins and outs of theater design. D has had to listen to me babble about it for years, and he smiles, but has no idea what I'm talking about.

Again, a brilliant time, and if you live nearby and want tickets, go here.

We also enjoyed our sojourn to Stratford. It's a charming town and the walk along the river is lovely. We also found Cafe Balzac, on Ontario Street between Downie and Waterloo, a place after my own heart. It's a fair trade coffee bar, with Mapleton's Organic Ice Cream (the maple crunch was to die for), local baked goods and sandwiches from Sirkel Foods - another local Stratford institution. All I can say was that everything there was wonderful (we returned twice in one day - for coffee and baked goods for breakfast and for ice cream before Earnest), and these lovely pictures by S can give you a sense of the place:

Lastly, a bit of local (Ann Arbor) love:

Gene Alloway, of Motte and Bailey Booksellers (which will surely be a Local Love Friday business, if he's interested - it's a wonderful, independent bookshop), wrote me and asked me to let people know about a culinary book club that will be taking place there (and it's right next to the PFC, so you can stop by there, first). This is what he wrote to me:

The first book is CURRY : TALE OF COOKS & CONQUERORS by Lizzie Collingham. Future books will be Jennifer Lee's FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES and Ian Kelly's COOKING FOR KINGS : THE LIFE OF ANTONIN CAREME, THE FIRST CELEBRITY CHEF. Thereafter the group will have a chance to choose what is next.

The first meeting will be July 15th at 7:30 p.m. here at Motte & Bailey, 212 N. 4th Ave. I will have used copies in nice shape for sale here at the shop, and in selecting the first books I made sure inexpensive used copies were available online for those wishing to buy for themselves as well.

Since the second two books are on my list in any case, I'm very excited about this venture. I know that Kitchen Chick gave a shout out about this in her wonderful blog, as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Road Trip!

I'll be off to the Stratford Festival and just playing, while my German daughter visits over the next few days.

We'll be seeing two of my all-time favorite plays: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Importance of Being Earnest.

I'll be back next week with play reviews, What's Cooking Wednesday and a Local Love Friday edition.

Ciao and have a lovely week!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Local Love Fridays: Own Your Own Business - Become a Member of the People's Food Co-op

Photo Credit: ©2009 Kevin Sharp

My own experiences with Ann Arbor's People's Food Co-op started back in my student days, as they do for many Ann Arborites. First off, I'd come to Ann Arbor from Berkeley, CA, and secondly, it was still a whisper of the 70s (early 1980 to be exact), so the idea that a food co-op was one of the first things I'd seek out was a natural.

I spent the first couple of years as a co-op member cutting the cheese. I kid you not. And it was one of the stinkiest jobs imaginable, but it earned me my extra 5% discount, so it was worth every wire through every block of Jarlsburg.

These days, The Ann Arbor People's Food Co-op is in one location, rather than two. It has a gorgeous cafe that sells a huge variety of coffee drinks, sandwiches, juices and baked goods, and it has a full, delicious hot bar and salad bar. (Also, the volunteer discount program is discontinued, much to the chagrin of cheese-cutters everywhere).

And we now have a bright, shiny store with a large variety of local, national and international products, all natural, all carefully selected under co-op guidelines:

Photo Credit: ©2009 Kevin Sharp

And I'm still a member. Why?

Because we own the place. All of us. Every single member. All 6000 of us.

We get to make business decisions through our democratically-elected board members, and we have excellent professionals running our business for us. And we get to buy delicious, natural, local (when possible) foods and products. Who wouldn't want to be a share owner of that?

I sat down with Kevin Sharp, Outreach Director at the PFC, to get his take on what makes the People's Food Co-op unique, and Kevin's response was this: each co-op is designed to uniquely serve its members, so our co-op is a reflection of our community. While the Hyde Park co-op in Chicago carries Heinz Ketchup and Coca Cola because the members demand it, our co-op has a completely Fair Trade coffee bar and an emphasis on locally grown products.

Ah, yes - locally grown. Music to my ears.

The Co-op has long been in partnership with many of the area's farmers, and has actually had a symbiotic relationship with some local organic farmers for two generations now:

"They helped us get going and we helped them get going and this is the second generation of local organic growers, and hopefully we’ll be here 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, we’re in an area that’s now producing more of our local foods, but that’s changing and growing and we’ll sell those things as much as possible."

Photo Credit: ©2009 Kevin Sharp

One of the great things about the Co-op is the solidity and the longevity. Even in Michigan's economy, the Co-op is solid, solid financially, and it will be around to serve us even as larger ventures tumble. And that means I can get food I trust from people I trust.

And that's the reason to be a member - to help to provide that stability for the local economy and to ensure that the Co-op will be here for generations to come. Plus, you receive many wonderful benefits.

As Kevin said it, "The local aspect is one of our core issues. It will stick with us long after the bigbox stores move on. Our business is really stable, even in this economy. With all the other options in town people still come down to this little storefront."

Besides, you can get wonderful things like these blueberry bars (Photo Credit: ©2009 Kevin Sharp)and a cup of great Roos Roast Free Speech Roospresso at the Co-op's Cafe Verde:

For more on our Co-op, see the wonderful video below by Zana Networks:

Are you a member of your local Co-op? Why or why not?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: Dinner for a Crowd: Super Simple Grilled Chicken

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

I've had a wonderful group of teens that I've worked with on writing for the past couple of years. Last year, they had a class on writing short stories with me, and this year, basically the same group took a course in advanced creative writing, where they worked on projects of their own choice. Next year, however, I start with a new crop for a "tasting" class in all aspects of creative writing, and most of these folks will be moving on to other things: one has just graduated, two are leaving for different schooling environments, etc.

Each semester, we put together a group project, based on a movie. The first semester we saw Once Upon a Mattress and the students came in the next day and wrote a movie musical script collaboratively, and this semester they did the same thing with a Noir piece after watching To Have and Have Not(okay, so To Have and Have Not is not exactly Noir, but they still managed Noir after seeing it). What was rejected this semester was screwball comedy, although the votes between screwball and noir were just about split, so I promised them a post school-year evening of screwball and dinner.

So we watched Bringing Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, and if you haven't seen it, you really should. It's hysterical. Truly.

Then there was the issue of what to serve: if you've got a bunch of teenage boys coming over, it's easy - meat and carbs and sugar - and lots of all three. This, however, was a group of girls. So I reached back into my memories for favorites of my exchange daughters over the years and this is what we had: Super Simple Grilled Chicken, Caprese Salad, Garlic Bread and homemade Strawberry Shortcake. I think it's safe to say that the menu was a hit, and I was happy to entertain these students whose writing and personalities I had so enjoyed over the past couple of years.

The chicken recipe has been a "go-to" for me this spring; I love the melding of flavors and the simplicity of the whole thing. I really took a page from Italian cuisine in terms of some of the 3-4 ingredient pasta dishes that I so love.

I meant to get a photo of all the chicken cooking on the grill, but I was too busy cooking at that point, and forgot. Needless to say, this can feed a CROWD. We ended up with about 1/3 of it left over, but that's just fine, because there are myriad uses for leftover chicken. You can also cut this recipe way down, by using just one lb. of chicken and halving the marinade.

Super Simple Grilled Chicken

To get an idea of just how simple, here are the ingredients:

4 - 6 lbs of a mixture of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and drumsticks (I find these are the two most popular cuts for a crowd)
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 big, honking lemons
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 TBS kosher salt
1 hefty sprig of rosemary


1. About 6 - 8 hours before cooking, wash and pat dry chicken pieces and cut each breast half in half again, so that you have portions of about 3-4 oz. Place all pieces in one, quart-size freezer bag. (Yes, you can be more ecological and place these in a pan, but I didn't have enough room in the fridge, and I actually think the bag method works better for marinating - I almost never use these, but for this recipe, I do).
2. Whisk together all the other ingredients (well, in the case of the lemons, the juice of those lemons), and carefully pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken.
3. Seal the bag and squeeze everything to distribute the marinade.
4. Place bag in the fridge and every time you open the fridge that day, change the position of the bag, to make sure every morsel of chicken gets marinated.
5. About 40 minutes before serving time (because usually you have to cook the chicken in batches) prep your grill for direct, high heat.
6. Watching for flare-ups, place chicken on the grill. The breast pieces will need 4 - 6 minutes on each side, and the drumsticks will need 8 - 10. If you're using a gas grill, cook these with the lid ON.


Note: To those watching your waistlines - don't worry about the massive quantities of olive oil - almost all of the marinade comes off as you take the chicken from the bag, so you end up with about 1/2 tsp olive oil per piece of chicken.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Some Book Fun: Books that Stay with You

I found this great idea from CARE, via OH's blog: Books that Stay with You, also known as "sticky" books. Sticky Books are books that stick with you over time. The books you can't put down. The books you go to over and over again.

Since I'm of the "so many books, so little time" philosophy, there are not that many sticky books on my list. I am, however, going to include some that I will return to, should I have that kind of time. (Probably during my dotage).

My List:

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - need I say more?
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen - this touched me on many levels. The writing is brilliant and the storyline compelling
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeline L'Engle - this gave me hope when I was a very lonely, eight-year-old.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - ditto - and I wasn't nearly as much of a fan of the other books - that first book was the one that grabbed me.
The Godfather - Mario Puzo - and I still think it's better than the movie.
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - again, I'm a major fan of this one, less so of the rest of the series.
The Jane Eyre Affaire - Jasper Fforde - ditto on the series thing. See a pattern?
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris - yup... same deal on the series.
Dune - Frank Herbert - DUDE! I know... but I still loved it. Again, just the first book.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - I actually pretty much liked the whole series.
On the Road - Jack Kerouac - and yes, I did hit the road at one point, thanks to this book.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
Trout Fishing in America - Richard Brautigan - such 60s poetry, but so much part of my teen years.
Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey - Isabel Fonseca - a brilliant piece of qualitative research, beautifully told.
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (this one keeps popping into my brain as I write the list, so it should be there, right?)
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
The entire Annie Seymour series, by Karen E. Olson.

While this is probably long enough, I still have to include two more categories:

Even though I firmly believe that plays are meant to be seen and not read, given all my years in and around theater I just had to include these:

Richard III by William Shakespeare - yes, I love Hamlet, Midsummer, Macbeth, and Much Ado (among others) more, but this was the play that started a more than thirty-year love affair with Shakespeare.
The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde - this never fails to make me laugh and laugh and laugh.
Cyrano de Bergerac - Edmond Rostand - I truly think Rostand gives Shakespeare a run for his money with this brilliant, funny and heartbreaking play.
A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen
Pretty much anything by Bertolt Brecht

And my favorite cookbooks of all time:

The New Basics Cookbook - Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
Elegant but Easy - Marian Burros and Lois Levine
New York Cookbook - Molly O'Neill
A La Russe - Darra Goldstein
How to Cook Everything - Mark Bittman
and my new favorite - Comfortably Yum by Luisa Perkins.

And speaking of Comfortably Yum, the winner of our giveaway contest is Goofball of Goofballsworld! This was a fitting win, as Goofball just got married on Saturday (congratulations!), and now she can join her hubby in helping more with the cooking.

Now, what are your "books that stay with you"?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Local Love Fridays: "Return to Your Senses" - RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee

"Make your own version of things." This was John Roos trying to sum up the philosophy of University of Michigan's School of Art and Design, but it might as well have been John Roos speaking about himself.

This is why I wanted to feature John Roos of RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee in my debut piece of Local Love Fridays.

Each Friday, I will be highlighting another local business.

Why am I doing this? Well, for a few reasons:

a. I think if we lose our creative diversity and each location looks the same due to corporate globalization, then we will have a very sad, same world.

b. I live in Michigan. We have a GREAT state with a lot to offer. I want to share that with everyone non-Michigan.

c. I want to share all our great products with Michiganders. I want all of us living here to patronize our local Michigan businesses. I want us to help each other pull out of this economic hole we've been in. I want us to realize that there is life beyond automobiles.

I'd love it if other bloggers, Michigan and otherwise, posted their own versions of "local love" and we can learn from each other just how many wonderful, creative, brave, small-business owners are out there - everywhere. Feel free to grab the button and join right in!

Okay... so enough about the feature. On to our featured business:

Photo Credit: ©2009 Stephen Kinnard photography

"Return to your senses."

That's what John Roos tells students in his coffee roasting classes. John Roos loves his coffee. You can see, smell and taste the love in every cup. (There's literally love in every cup as John's chief taster is his wife, Kath, whom John says has a "simply amazing palate" and John, with 20 years as a professional chef, should know amazing palates). You can see it in his commitment to only use Fair Trade beans.

John would like everyone to really get down and dirty with their coffee - smell it, run their fingers through it, look at the different textures of the beans. Coffee should be a sensual experience, and he takes the monikker of "Free Speech" coffee seriously.

In John Roos's eyes, coffee may just have created the Industrial Revolution and certainly helped The Age of Enlightenment along. "Before coffee, everyone drank grog. Coffee houses allowed people to really start playing with ideas." He went on to discuss his other ideas behind "Free Speech" coffee: homage to his Ann Arbor hippie-background upbringing and to the fact that people talk more when they have coffee.

John's odyssey to the coffee business has taken him through careers and side trips as a professional chef, artist, poet, and more recently, as a Subaru salesman. The Subarus led him, more fully, to the coffee. He arrived back in Ann Arbor in 2002 needing a break from restaurants, but obsessed with coffee: an obsession that began with a perfect cup of coffee at "Grandma's House" in Maui in 1990. The Subaru job was more of a challenge/joke to himself, but he enjoyed it, and began giving his home-roasted brews to folks who bought cars. Soon folks were coming in for coffee, rather than the cars, and John decided he could take this full time.

Here he is in used car salesman regalia at the Farmers Market this past Saturday (John is the one in the middle):

The artistry and love from John Roos is in every RoosRoast bag: John's art is on each and every bag, his love of words is clear from his use of batch names such as Lobster Butter Love or Rich French Neighbor, and the proof of his love of coffee is in every, addicting, delicious cup.

I know.

I'm an addict.

At the moment, I'm particularly addicted to a batch of Fair Trade (like all of John's coffee) Rwandan beans roasted on May 29th.

To learn more about RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee go here.

For those lucky enough to live in our area, you can find RoosRoast Free Speech Coffee and John at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturdays, and you can find the coffee sold at the People's Food Co-op (it's sold in Cafe Verde, next to the pastry case), Sparrow Meat Market, The Produce Station and at the 777 Building in the 777's Cafe (where they brew it). For those who don't live in the area, you can still order RoosRoast here.

Stephen Kinnard is a local photographer whose portfolio work can be found here, and whose photo of the day can be found here. I am greatly indebted to him for the use of his wonderful photo today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday: Variations on a Theme - Rhubarb, Part Deux

Please go to The Fairy Blogmother for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

I love leafing through cooking magazines. I have to admit, I don't use many of the recipes anymore, but I like using them to improvise. In looking through this month's Gourmet, I found this lovely-looking recipe for
Raspberry Buttermilk Cake.

The only trouble was, there was way too much sugar and white flour for my tastes, and I had a few raspberries, but what I really needed to use was my rhubarb from last week's Tantre Farm share.

So since we all know that invention is a Mother, I decided to play with what was on hand and make my own variant. I had the bonus of having a couple of duck eggs from Our Family Farm that I needed wanted to use up. If you've never baked with duck eggs, you're missing a real treat. Yes, things do bake up higher and happier with the egg of the duck.

A little bit of change here; a little bit of change there, and I ended up with just what my tastebuds (and waistline) preferred: a less sweet, rhubarb-infused, pan cake with a slightly heftier texture. Once again, it got the D seal of approval.

Caveat: We don't like our desserts overly sweet at our house, so if you are a sugarholic, you might want to adjust accordingly.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Buttermilk Cake

Raspberry-Rhubarb Buttermilk Cake


1 cup raspberries
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
2 TBS cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, minus 2 TBS
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 TBS butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp for sprinkling on top
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 extra large egg (or duck egg, if you have one!)
2/3 cup lowfat buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 400. Place rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Pre-cook rhubarb for 1 minute in the microwave in a microwavable dish.
3. Whisk together dry ingredients. (For the flour mixture, measure the 2 TBS of cornmeal into a 1 cup measure, and then fill the rest of that cup with the whole wheat pastry flour).
4. With an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.
5. On low speed, add in dry ingredients and buttermilk alternating (3 portions of flour/2 buttermilk). Mix until just combined. Do NOT overwork.
6. Pour into cake pan greased with cooking spray or a little canola oil.
7. Scatter rhubarb and raspberries on top and sprinkle whole thing with 1 tsp sugar.
8. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until set. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, and then turn out of pan and cool further. (Or if you're a chicken like me, just cool it in the pan).

Serves 12


Nutritional Info
Fat: 3.8g
Carbohydrates: 15.5g
Protein: 2.5g

As always, nutrition info supplied by the recipe calculator function at Sparkrecipes.com.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review: Comfortably Yum by Luisa Perkins

I'm not sure when I first became aware that Luisa was going to put together a cookbook, but I absolutely knew I would buy it.

Luisa has shared many recipes via her blog, Novembrance, and some of her family's favorites have become the favorites of my family, as well. (Her "Brookies" are to die for, and if I make them, it's an easy way for me to get D or C to do just about anything for me).

You can imagine my excitement as I tore through my copy of Comfortably Yum and found that my all-time favorite food quote (the description of breakfast from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy) was Luisa's pick for the intro. to her Breakfast section. I knew that my keen anticipation had not been in vain.

What I love about Luisa's philosophy about food is that it is a gift to be enjoyed, and that if people have "food issues" that's about other things and choices they make, not about recipes prepared well. She doesn't stint in the use of butter or sugar, and she has this marvelous story about her mother-in-law:

"Last Thanksgiving, my friend Tina Fairweather asked her (Luisa's mother-in-law) how to make it(cream of vegetable soup); my mother-in-law began giving instructions in response.When she came to the cup of milk and the cup of heavy cream, Tina asked, 'So you could use half-and-half, then?'
My mother-in-law replied in gracious but firm tones, 'Oh, no. I find there is no substitute for heavy cream.' Amen, Mother, amen."

Luisa also manages to convey her patience and kind heart via her writing: she presents an extremely useful ingredients/tools section at the beginning, which will certainly help in re-creating the recipes to their best advantage.

This book is actually a love letter to her family and friends, and she has beautiful commentary throughout, including humorous "Prelude" and "Postlude" sections. The Prelude concerns Luisa's personal history with food, and the Postlude contains some of her philosophy about food and enjoyment. Luisa is also an active member of her church, and she shares LDS traditions and philosophy along with her comments on family rituals and fun. Her comments are never heavy-handed or proselytizing, however - her views on these areas simply add to the points she's making about a particular recipe or section.

The recipes themselves are everything one could wish for - practical and delicious. Most of the recipes are fairly straightforward, but whether a recipe is as simple as her "Lynyrd Skynyrd" dip or is somewhat more complex, such as her Fondue recipe, her directions are crystal clear and feature humor and heart. Drinking peppermint tea is part of the Fondue ritual, for example, and listening to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs or The Gypsy Kings on low is a secret for making the Chicken Enchiladas the best they can be. While many of the recipes could define home-cooked "comfort food" - creamed tuna, a truly fabulous granola recipe, lemon squares, chocolate cake, and the previously mentioned enchiladas (which apparently elicited her wedding proposal), there are also a wonderful smattering of international recipes, especially Canadian (including poutine - for which I praise Luisa forever) and many Swiss recipes, reflecting her mother-in-law's heritage.

The sections themselves cover the gamut: breakfast, soups, main dishes, accompaniments, desserts and "snacks and pantry food".

I've had a tradition of giving Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything to newlyweds, college grads, and those who are just, plain starting new lives: for me, it is the modern version of The Joy of Cooking. I love the book, but it's somewhat overwhelming, and there are some things that Bittman does far better than others (his bread section, for example, is fairly abysmal, IMHO). I've decided to switch, however, to Comfortably Yum.

While it is on a smaller scale, Comfortably Yum is everything a new cook (or an experienced one) could wish for, and in addition to the fabulous culinary recipes, a wonderful recipe for living life with heart and humor is woven throughout. Who could ask for more?

I loved this book so much that I want to share it with one of my readers. If you'd like to win your own copy of Comfortably Yum, simply leave a comment by midnight, June 5th, and tell me why you need a copy of this book. It can be a need for yourself or for someone you know. I will probably determine the winner via random selection, just because I like being random like that.

This is my first real book review, but I need some way of rating this, so I'm going to give it 5 out of 5 "local love points".