How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Kitchen Sink leftovers

Last night's dinner was put together with a variety of leftovers, combined with some of the vegetables I froze over the summer from our CSA.

I started by sauteeing an onion and some garlic scrape (CSA), in a large cast iron pot and added some ground beef. Once the beef was browned, I added some diced celery (CSA); parsley (CSA); and dried basil. Next I added a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, and 12 oz. of water. When everthing was mixed I added some kale (CSA) and leftover rice. Upon taste testing I found it a bit bland, so I added some red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of the mole leftover from James' adventure a few weeks ago with Champandongo which gave it just the right kick. We topped our servings with shredded cheddar.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

First Longer Day

Image: Dreams Time
Followers of this blog will know that we often choose our foods to mark special days, including those marking the changes of seasons. And between the latkes of Hanukkah (this year they were even better than the "best ever latkes" of 2012, greatly assisted by our home-made mead) and the lobster of Christmas Eve, we turned once again to Jamie Wood's The Wicca Cookbook.

During the shortest day of the year, we were still enjoying food from the day before, so we actually waited until the day after the longest night to celebrate solstice. This seems more fitting, actually, as it is the first in a string of 182 days of increasing light.

When I made cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year, a friend had actually given me two bags of the precious berries, directly from her work at Ocean Spray, so the Chakra Cranberry Sauce recipe (pp. 180-181) was an obvious choice. I heated one cup of water in an indispensible cast-iron saucepan, and added one cup of organic granulated sugar. When it was boiling and the sugar dissolved, I removed the berries from the freezer and poured them in. I added one orange (pureed with our immersion blender), a diced apple and a diced pear. To this I added a cup of raisins (the recipe calls for any dried fruit) and a cup of chopped pecans. I omitted the 1/2 teaspoon of salt the recipe calls for, but did include plenty of ground cinnamon and freshly-shaved nutmeg. I simmered covered for the  recommended 30 minutes, but kept it going afterward, as it was a bit too liquidish. The trade-off here is that it did not have time to cool very much. I recommend making this at least a few hours ahead if you want it to set up right, but it was delicious warm, served with a slotted spoon.

Our main course was stuffed turkey burgers (p. 188), which were similar to one of our staple dinners. In this case, to a pound (or so) of lean ground turkey, I added breadcrumbs, a tablespoon (or so) of dried thyme and the juice of half a lemon. I then made two very thin patties for each serving, forming a kind of pocket that I filled with a small amount of cheese. The recipe calls for bleu cheese, but nobody in our house eats that, so I used two cheeses we always have on hand -- aged Vermont cheddar for Paloma and me, and feta crumbles for Pam. I pressed the edges of each double patty together and put them on a plate in the fridge for a couple hours before cooking them up on our griddle.

I had been unable to find fresh thyme -- the recipe calls for 1/2 cup -- and our front-yard crop is way out of season; This was so delicious that I look forward to trying this again in the late spring, perhaps on Beltane.

The "perfect pairing" for this was to have been Gl├╝wein (mulled wine - p. 194), but I completely forgot. As it was, we were quite satisfied to pair this meal with water, and will make the wine on some frostier day. We will compare Wood's recipe with the TasteFood version.

As always, Thank the Farmers!
Image: Ocean Spray Cooperative

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


For a small honors seminar this semester, I decided to hold the final exam as a discussion over food at Casa Hayes-Boh. I decided to make champandongo the main course, as I have been thinking about this mole-based (MOH-lay) dish ever since we had it here with a group of Pam's students here three years ago.

In that case, Pam had made the food of Coma Agua Para Chocolate a major theme of her Spanish course, and had secured an undergraduate research grant to facilitate having the class make most of the dishes from Laura Esquivel's book (see my posts on its revolutionary context and on Latin American films).

We have cooked several of the dishes from Esquivel's work before -- most notably chicken based on her quail-and-rose-petal recipe, but Pam's class project was far more ambitious, especially since it involved students, many of whom had little if any cooking experience. Working in pairs, students created both a fabulous meal and a permanent record of their culinary efforts. Each post on the CAPCR blog explains how a dish was prepared and how it is connected to the story. All of the dishes were shared at our house during this 8:00 a.m. class. Most were then served again -- either remade or thawed from leftovers -- at an undergraduate research colloquium open to the entire campus.

I must admit that I know the movie far better than the book, and so was unaware of champandongo prior to this adventure with the students. I have been a huge fan of mole -- a complex chocolate-chile sauce usually associated with poultry -- since Pam and I spent the summer of 1989 in Puebla, Mexico. The sauce is properly known as mole poblano, meaning "sauce of Puebla" and represents one of the several ways cacao was used for centuries before people thought of it as a candy. Its use in this lasagna-style dish was simply amazing, and it is hard to believe I have not yet attempted it myself.

In planning my own version, I of course began with the description by Sullivan and Laura. (Incidentally, Sullivan is the only student in this class who I knew previously, both as a student and a long-time family friend.) As complex as the dish was, however, I knew that authentic mole is much more complicated: Campbell's soup, for instance, was rarely available to the ancient Aztecs. I turned to the Hispanic Kitchen blog for more authentic versions, and quickly found an impressive recipe for chicken mole.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beef-Barley Skillet

From perhaps the most-used cookbook in our collection - More-with-Less Cookbook - comes this simple, yet filling, dish that used a bunch of the things I froze over the summer from out CSA.

I began by sauteeing some onion, and browning about 3/4 pound of ground beef in our indispensable cast-iron skillet. I took some garlic scrape, and chopped celery from the freezer and added a handful of each to the skillet. Next I added a dollop of salsa, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, a dash of marjoram and parsley, a bit of pepper, and threw in some frozen greens for good measure. Finally I added 1 1/2 c. of water and 3/4 c. of barley. Once this was all brought to a boil, I reduced the heat, covered and let cook for 50 minutes.

A tasty, and  hardy winter meal.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Earlier this year when I prepared Pumpkin Pasties in honor of  Harry Potter's birthday, I also considered making some Butterbeer but the least-sickeningly-sweet recipe I found was for a hot beverage, and it was beastly hot outside, so I decided to wait for a more appropriate season. A cold and rainy St. Nick's Day seemed the right time. The recipe was simple calling for just milk and butterscotch chips. I put some chips in the bottom of some mugs, filled with milk and put them in the microwave, stirring every minute for 2.5 minutes. The chips melted nicely, and the milk was heated without being scalded. I have seen some question as to whether the Butterbeer in the Harry Potter books is an alcoholic beverage, but I think it is made pretty clear in Book 4 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - that Winky the House Elf gets completely soused on the stuff, so with this in mind I added a shot of vodka to each of the mugs. The beverage was hot and creamy, if perhaps a bit too sweet. If I make it again I will use fewer butterscotch chips.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mashed Potato Pancakes

We brought home a bunch of mashed potato leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, the Huffington Post provided this list of 19 things to do with mashed potatoes just in time for the holiday. I wasn't even sure which one to prepare as so many of them looked promising, so I began at the beginning and made the Cheesy Pancakes. It was pretty simple as the potatoes were already mashed all I had to do was add some shredded cheddar cheese and some chopped scallions and form them into patties. They cooked quickly and easily, and were quite tasty topped with some sour cream.