Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tales of the Old West

Just like the cowboys ate!

Just like the cowboys ate!

Well, that God THAT’S over. Here is the last video in the seemingly endless #10MealChallenge saga. Happily, this grand finale was one recipe that actually turned out tasting AND looking (reasonably) good. Yay me!

I have not had good experiences with horses. Well, to be honest, I’ve only had ONE experience with horses. It was in the Black Hills of South Dakota, on vacation with my almost-the-same-age-as-me niece Amy. We signed up for one of those trail rides – greenhorn version. I’m pretty sure they pick one rube out of every group to serve as comic relief and stick them with the worst horse. Guess who that someone was on our ride?

I was saddled with a bad pony named Rusty. (Technically, HE was saddled, but I bore the burden of his bad temperament). While everyone else moseyed along the trail in comfort and ease, I spent two hours trying to impose my feeble will on this stubborn beast. They smell your fear, your know. Instead of following the rest of the group, Rusty insisted on wandering from the trail, stopping to eat weeds, stumbling down embankments … Gradually I fell further and further behind the rest of the group and found myself hoping one of those rare Black Hills cougars would leap out of the trees onto me and end my misery.

After the ride my niece, who was near the lead of the group, said all she heard during the whole trail ride were my increasingly desperate shouts: “No, Rusty! Stop, Rusty! GOOOOO, Rusty!”

Call me petty, but every time I open a bottle of Elmer’s glue, I find myself hoping that was Rusty’s ultimate fate.

On the other hand, I subsequently had a very pleasant time on a chuckwagon ride, sitting comfortably in the back of a covered wagon listening to a grizzled local singing old campfire songs. So there, Rusty!

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If your eyes are quite tiny …

Some pig

Some pig

In one of the Muppet movies (The Great Muppet Caper, I think), someone sang a song with these lyrics:

“If your eyes are quite tiny,
and your ears very big,
you can be fairly certain
what you are is a pig.”

For some reason this has stuck with me for decades, and I tend to hum it obsessively whenever cooking any pork dish. Not that I cook many pork dishes. Pork chops cooked on top of rice mixed with creamy condensed soup (see my dissertation on hotdish in the entry on stroganoff) is the one recipe I make with some regularity.

It certainly would never have occurred to me to stuff a pork roast with apricots and cream cheese, though I like both these ingredients very much. And it turns out that they do taste pretty good with pork roast. But I have to be honest: my rendition of this recipe came out looking like one of those caterpillars afflicted with parasitic larvae. You know, like this one:


Science is fascinating, isn’t it?

As for the recent scandal of Miss Piggy and Kermie’s break up, I’m pretty sure it’s just a publicity stunt to drum up interest in their upcoming TV series. So don’t be sad. I’m confident they’ll be back together by sweeps week.

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Now THAT’S MacCheesy!


I believe this would taste good even boiled in a sheep’s stomach.

I didn’t know that macaroni & cheese that DIDN’T come out of a blue Kraft box was a thing. Seriously, I thought Kraft invented it, and other boxed mac & cheese products were cheap knock-offs. So when I discovered that Tastefully Simple had a recipe for “Easy Baked Mac & Cheese,” I was nonplused. How could this be easier than dumping a box of noodles into boiling water, draining when cooked, and stirring in a packet of cheese dust?

Turns out, it isn’t easier than that. But it’s still pretty easy. And delicious! I’m no cheese purist; radioactive orange powder has always suited me fine, so the pallid hue of this dish was a little disconcerting. But it’s yummy, so I adjusted quickly.

Once again, my video is a whole lot of blarney. Of course macaroni & cheese wasn’t invented in Scotland. Wikipedia says the dish is referenced as early as the 14th century, when it was called “makerouns,” which sounds like macaroons or macarons, neither of which is anything like macaroni & cheese. But since I am a medievalist by education (this is why I’m poor and pimping beer bread for a living; don’t believe anyone who tells you a liberal arts degree is a good idea), I am delighted that some cook in the 1300s was hunkered over a manuscript that read:

“Take and make a thynne foyle of dowh. and kerve it on peces, and cast hem on boillyng water & seeþ it wele. take chese and grate it and butter cast bynethen and above as losyns. and serue forth.”

I think Kraft should put that on its boxes, don’t you?

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Pardon My French

You can't see the puddle of "sauce" that leaked to the bottom of the plate under all the noodles.

You can’t see the puddle of “sauce” that leaked to the bottom of the plate under all the noodles.

Here in central Minnesota, any dish that includes noodles and some kind of creamy sauce is known as “hotdish.” Hotdish is the greatest thing ever invented, by the way. There is nothing that cannot be improved by pouring a can of condensed cream of mushroom (or cream of chicken, in a pinch) soup over it. Got leftover meat and vegetables? Throw ’em in a baking pan, smother ’em in soup and bake until bubbly. If you want to get extra-fancy (company’s coming!), crumble potato chips over the top. Now THAT’S good eatin’.

This entry in the #10MealChallenge is called “Scrumptious Beef Stroganoff,” but let’s be honest: it’s hotdish. (The original dish is also Russian, not French, but I don’t do a Russian accent.)

Authentic beef stroganoff apparently involves floured beef cubes, bouillon (I knew there had to be some French in there) and a dollop of sour cream.; no mushrooms My own favorite recipe for the dish includes hamburger, cream of mushroom soup and LOTS of sour cream.

This recipe from Tastefully Simple is made in a crockpot. Although the directions clearly specify that you add the sour cream to the pot only AFTER cooking the meat for seven or eight hours, I added it along with all the other ingredients. The result was that the sour cream apparently degenerated into its component parts, and I ended up with a very soupy sauce. Tried to doctor it up with more sour cream and cornstarch, but it never really did reach good hotdish consistency. Sad times.

If I make this again, I’ll add a can of cream of mushroom soup. Because it ain’t hotdish without the Campbells.

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Finally a use for that German minor!

Apparently vinegar on fries is a thing. This salt wasn't bad, but I still prefer ketchup.

Apparently vinegar on fries is a thing. This seasoning wasn’t bad, but I still prefer ketchup.

I minored in German in college, and I don’t know why. I suppose it was because I originally intended to go into international marketing, but that went by the wayside rather quickly. Even after taking it in high school and through four years of college, I can’t say I ever became fluent. But since I became addicted to the YouTube videos of Herr Doctor Meyer of the Vet Clinic of The Gambia (mangoworms!), I have found myself speaking in a quasi-German accent. So I figured I might as well use that in one of my #10MealChallenge videos.

By the way, the German word for bacon is actually  Speck. But schweinfleisch is funnier, don’t you think? And hamburgers probably were not actually invented in Hamburg, Germany. The earliest mention of the word is from 1896 in the Chicago Tribune, and they became widely known when they were sold at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.  Wikipedia offers a nice synopsis of the hamburger’s controversial origins, if you’re really interested.

Anyway, these Sweet Mustard Bacon Burgers were pretty good. I didn’t have as much hamburger on hand as the recipe called for, however, and used the specified amount of wet ingredients, so the “patties” didn’t hold together very well. Let’s call them loose meat sandwiches (loses Fleischsandwich, for those of you following along auf Deutsch). I stubbed my toe a little when adding the Chipotle Seasoning, so they had more of a kick than a spinster of northern European descent finds entirely comfortable.

And finally, only those old enough to remember when Mike Meier was on SNL will understand the end of this video. I feel sad for the rest of you.

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A Julia Child(ish) Exercise

Like Doris Day in those1960s bedroom comedies, this dish was apparently filmed through a gel filter to hide its flaws.

Like Doris Day in those1960s bedroom comedies, this dish was apparently filmed through a gel filter to hide its flaws.

It’s hard to do wrong by chicken. It’s wrong to do hard by Julia Child (She was a nice lady. And a spy!). Still, let’s try to accomplish both, shall we?

This is actually one of two different chicken dishes I intended to make as part of the #10MealChallenge. The other was Creamy Bayou Bourbon Chicken, which sounds pretty good.  Anything with the word creamy in the title is my kind of eats. Sadly, during the hurricane of multi-tasking the day I prepared all these (see my previous post, “Trivial Pursuits”), I set a freezer bag full of chicken breasts soaking in the Bayou Bourbon marinade on top of the refrigerator, intending to take it to the downstairs freezer. Four days later it was discovered, still on top of the fridge, looking gray and morose.

Theoretically, I suppose, the bourbon in the Bayou Bourbon Glaze might have killed any deadly bacteria. The glaze also contains two kinds of vinegar and lemon juice, so it’s got to be pretty acidic. However, I once saw an episode of “Quincy, M.E.” about a kid who got botulism from bad chili at a football stadium, and it made a great impression on me. So the Creamy Bayou Bourbon Chicken went into the Stinky Central Minnesota Waste Bin.

This dish is not Bayou Bourbon Creamy Chicken. It’s Savory Grilled Chicken. It’s grilled. It’s savory. It’s chicken. What more is there to say? Bon appetit!

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That’s Italian?


Italy is known for its priceless art and ancient monuments. This is neither of those.

Of all the lousy accents I do, my Italian is far and away the lousiest. This makes me sad because 1) just about anybody can do a reasonably plausible Italian accent; and 2) it’s an accent that could be very useful to pull out in moments of great stress, when I could wave my arms and shout, “Mama Mia!” But apparently my natural northern European reserve prevents me from mastering this florid style.

This particular #10MealChallenge dish, Scrumptious Stromboli, actually turned out reasonably well, though I suspect it is even less authentically Italian than my bad accent. According to our friends at Wikipedia, stromboli is named for a 1950 film of the same name directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman (Hm. I wonder how her Italian accent was.) It’s considered a “classic example of Italian neorealism,” which apparently means it’s pretty darned grim. It did result in a torrid affair between Rosselini and Bergman, however, and the subsequent birth of their child, whom they did not name Stromboli.

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Trivial Pursuits


This London Broil looks like it’s been through the Blitz.

Doing this #10MealChallenge thing for work has taught me that I really am a pretty lousy cook (at least judging by the appearance of my dishes; they actually taste good). To be fair, the “official” photos of these meals on the company website were taken by food stylists under very favorable conditions, while mine were taken with my iPhone in a murky corner of my shabby kitchen.

The quality of my culinary output is likely also influenced by my attempting to conduct several very different activities simultaneously: preparing and cooking 10 meals; editing video in PowerDirector; and dyeing my hair. By the time I finished, the kitchen looked like the set of a very low budget horror film.

Technically, I could have just pointed my phone at my finished dishes and pressed record for a few seconds. But that’s not me. I make EPIC EXTRAVAGANZAS. Pretty sure I’ll finally be discovered after this series goes viral. I’ll try to remember the little people who made it all possible.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

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An Unfortunate Series of Events

The finished dish

The finished dish


At my workplace, we’re taking the Tastefully Simple 10 Meal Challenge. We’re encouraged to make videos of our efforts and post them online. I’m not sure this will be the brilliant marketing ploy they’d hoped for, in my case at least, because I can’t cook for crap. (Baking is a different story.) Anyway, the next several posts will represent my amateurish videos of my amateurish cooking adventures. So … enjoy?


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