Tuesday, May 22, 2007

End of the World Sushi

To celebrate the end of the world as we know it, here is a recipe for Sushi Nori made from ingredients in my Armageddon Pantry.

Sushi Nori

2½ cups Japanese short-grain rice (Calrose will work)
2½ cups cold water
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 sheets nori

Can of tuna or smoked salmon
Wasabi paste if you have it. I always do
Sesame seeds
Soy Sauce

Rinse the rice in a colander thoroughly under the tap until the water runs clear, then drain well. Put the rice and the cold water in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.

Cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Turn off the heat and allow to stand 10 minutes more, still covered, then spoon the rice into a large bowl.

Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, then drizzle over the rice. Mix together gently to coat the rice with the sushi vinegar, then set aside to cool to room temperature.

Take the nori sheets and place between damp paper towels or dish towels to make them more flexible.

The filling can be anything you like. Some favorites are smoked salmon and green onions. Tuna and cucumbers. Omelet strips and avocado. BUT since this is the end of the world, we are just going to use plain tuna, seasoned with a few drops of liquid smoke and a cucumber from my neighbor's garden. I am also assuming the world is going to end in the summer when we have our gardens producing for us.

Assemble the Sushi

Take a sheet of nori and place it on a light weight dish towel or bamboo mat. Spread about a cup of the cooled rice on the sheet with wet finger tips, leaving about 1 inch of the nori showing on the far edge. (The sheet is more oblong than square so you want to leave the longer edge free of rice.

Spread a strip of wasabi paste lengthwise in the middle of the rice square. Distribute your filling. Tuna and cucumber that has been cut into strips lengthwise, like small french fry shapes.

Using your towel or rolling mat, roll the sheet up like a jelly roll, but somewhat firmly and tightly. If the edge with no rice on it has dried out just brush it with your fingers and some water. Lightly squeeze the roll to make sure it is sealed and set aside.

When done, cut into 1 1/2 pieces. Serve with toasted sesame seeds and more wasabi paste mixed with soy sauce for a tangy dip.

Might as well break out one of the bottles of Champagne in the pump house and sit on the deck to admire the beautiful red, orange and purple sunset provided by the vast amounts of dust in the air from the destruction of New York City by a suitcase bomb smuggled across our porous borders.

Contents of the Armegddon Pantry

As long as I'm on a doom and gloom kick, here are the contents of my Armageddon Pantry. When all hell breaks loose, at least I will have enough supplies to enjoy the ride to oblivion. This assumes that if all hell does break loose, it will do so fairly far from our rural location, leaving us stranded from supply lines for a while, or possibly a pandemic where we must stay isolated.

If all hell doesn't break loose, I don't have to go to the store for items that I need. Just trundle on out to the pump house and grab the ingredient I need. Very convenient.

When I take something out of the pump house to use, I replace it with new. It is a good idea to keep rotating this stuff as food doesn't keep forever.

It may look like an excessive amount of pantry preparedness (probably it is), but it isn't at all unusual for my area which is quite rural and has bad winters where we can get snowed in for a week or more.

People tend to be more self sufficient and stock up than the people in cities. So when the crap hits the oscillating mechanism, if I don't have something, my neighbors down the road will. People also tend to share and help each other in rural areas. We hear the horrible stories of the Great Depression. What we don't hear is that the people who lived in the sticks, didn't have nearly the hardships that those in urban areas did. I pity the people in the cities who live from week to week, have nothing stored up and have no close friends or neighbors to lean on.Anal? Yes. Being prepared? Priceless


Can Goods:The quantities are in case lots of most canned goods= 12 large cans or 24 small cans
2 canned tomatoes = 24 cans
2 tomato sauce
1 tomato paste
2 black olives
3 corn
1 creamed corn
2 green beans
1 kidney beans
1 garbanzo beans
1 pinto beans
1 peaches
1 pears
1 grapefruit sections
1 home canned pie cherries

In individual can amounts from at least 8 to 20 (I'm too busy to go take accurate inventory)
Albacore tuna
Chicken meat
Beef in cans
Beef stew
Chili with beans and meat
Vienna Sausages
Spam (lol)

MSC Food

Dried fruit (about 4 pounds of dried apricots, apples, pears, prunes.)
Craisins (2 large packages)
Wild Rice in retort cooked packages
Rice, brown, wild and white
Pinto Beans
Navy Beans
Split Peas
Soy Sauce
Peanut Butter (3 large)
Apricot Jam (2 large)
HoneyBrown SugarWhite Sugar
Vinegar (cider and balsamic)
Olive oil
Peanut oil
Hot chocolate mix
Chocolate chips
Coffee!!!! very important ....ground coffee 3 large cans
Dehydrated Buttermilk mix
Marie Callander Cornbread mix
Dried milk
Dehydrated onions
Case of Top Ramen
Lots of pasta
3 really large containers of Parmesan Cheese
4 pounds of kosher salt
Iodized salt
Barbeque sauces
Marinara and Alfredo Sauces in bottles
Lop Cheong sausages (Chinese dried sausages)
Dried Mushrooms
Nori (seaweed sheets)

Case of wine, several bottles of champagne, Scotch, Rum, Vodka and other spirits

Several cases of Snapple drinks
Grapefruit Juice
Orange Juice
Cranberry Juice
Bottled Green Tea
Lots of bottled water

Cat Food

More misc food things I can't recall right now.

Flour, Polenta, Cornmeal, Bisquick, Walnuts, Pecans and other nuts...I keep in my freezer to avoid weevils. The freezer contents are another story. Plus I have a kitchen full of spices, salt, pepper and other food stuffs. My husband says we can eat for a month out of the crap (his term) I have in the kitchen.


Rubbing Alcohol
Lots of Lamp Oil and extra wicks
Matches and Butane Lighters
Clothes Pins
Laundry Soap
Liquid hand soap and baby wipes
Twine and light rope
Paraffin blocks
Canning Jars with Lids
Paper plates, plastic utensils, paper napkins and plastic drinking glasses
Toilet paper and paper towels
Plastic drop cloths and table covers
Garbage bags
Plastic wrap and waxed paper

Amunition.... yes for the guns. If push came to shove, I would not be adverse to knocking off a deer, pheasant, goose or even one of the local cows of which there are hundreds.

Medical kit for grab and go. In addition to the extensive medical kit I have in my bathroom.

Batteries, Flashlight, Blanket, Plastic Tarp also for the grab and go. Hopefully we get to sit and stay put.

Decks of cards and poker chips (to go with the alcohol)
Scrabble and other games. Hey... If we are going to be stranded in our home, might as well have some fun.

Plus my husband has an entire shop filled with tools of all kinds, generator, gas cans, nails.... you name it..... he's got it.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rhubarb Crisp

Super recipie, super easy for rhubarb lovers. You are out there somewhere. This is a recipe I've had for years and years. It never fails.


1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups diced rhubarb

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a bowl combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut the butter into pieces and rub though the mixture until crumbly. I just use my fingers for this process. Press 1/2 of mixture into a 9 inch square pan or pie plate. Spread the fruit over the crumbs.

2. In a sauce pan combine the water, sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until thickened and clear. Cool slightly and add vanilla. You can add a few drops of red food coloring if desired. I never do. Pour syrup over fruit. Top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

Top with whipped cream if desired. If you have strawberries you can throw some of those in as well.

Armageddon Pantry

Since the disasters of Katrina and recently the tornadoes in Kansas added to the worries about pandemics or terrorists attacks on major population areas, I have gotten serious about stocking up supplies for an emergency. The Dumbplumber calls it my Armageddon pantry. Actually this is something I have been serious about for some time and it gives me a really good excuse for my hoarding behavior. I must have learned this when I was a child: this need to have not one, not two but a dozen cans of corn, soup etc.

Well, a while back, we got a small preview of what the effects of a "disaster" would be. Ok, a very, very small preview. Our house wasn't destroyed, my cat can still come in and whine for her "TREAT" (a tablespoon of canned food), we still had running water and the natural gas to the Wolf Range was still functional. What happened was that for some inexplicable reason the electricity went off on a Sunday afternoon about 1:00. I was in the middle of a load of laundry, in the middle of typing up recipes into my Master Cook program and whamo......power outage. Fortunately I have a power back up on the computer so I shut it down. The Dumbplumber was taking a nap. No need to disturb him. I had full confidence that the power would be back on shortly, after all it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. So, what to do now? Grab a beer, a bowl of potato chips and my latest paperback and go sit on the deck in the sun and read…. naturally.

As the day wore on, DP woke up and there seemed to be no progress from PG&E. I decided to get some of the supplies from the Armageddon Pantry. Out come the oil lamps....hmmm I only have one more bottle of oil, better make a note. Out come the candles and candle holders....better buy some more candles, all I have are two green decorative candles. I had already made most of dinner so that wasn't too bad. But after about 8 hours of no power, I am beginning to worry about the food in the fridge getting hot and my half done laundry getting moldy. Wow, I think I'd better get some old fashioned clothes pins for the future disaster room.

So, the evening wore on. We had roasted chicken, macaroni salad, green salad and rhubarb crisp. Fortunately I had purchased an antique (OK only 1950's) rotary egg beater, so I was able to make whipped cream without electricity. Whew! averted that disaster. No television! Actually that was the best part of the whole experience. Whipping out the matches, which didn't work because they were too old....hmmm more notes to self, and then getting the butane lighter from the bbq, we lit the oil lanterns. Feeling like Abe Lincoln, we read our books by oil lamps sipping on a glass of wine. I said, "No wonder women did so much needlework, they were bored." The Dumbplumber said, "No wonder people had such large families."...So we went to bed. Suddenly, twelve hours after the outage, everything comes back on with a vengeance. Lights, washer, stereo and all electronic devices begin beeping. Life is back to normal.

In all seriousness, our little inconvenience wasn’t much, but it has reinforced the need to be prepared. What if this was not just an annoying 12 hour event, but a situation that would last for days or weeks? We are in a somewhat remote rural area. If anything happened (earthquake, terrorist attack, bird flu epidemic) it is highly likely that we would be cut off from supplies of food and other necessities. I am determined to beef up the disaster pantry. Plus it is pretty convenient to grab that extra jar of mayonnaise from the pump house instead of trundling off to the store.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cheap Eats and the Zen of Cooking

I feel sorry for people who don't know how to cook or who don't like to cook. There seems to be many more of those types of people today. They are missing out on good tasting and nutritious meals that can be enjoyed at home. They are missing out on the pride of creating something delicious and beautiful to look at from humble ingredients. They are missing the Zen of cooking. The meditative and soothing motions of kneading bread. The free form creativity and spontaneity of adding an unexpected new ingredient or flavor to an old recipe. But most of all I feel sorry for them because they are spending way too much money on pre-prepared foods and eating out.

Home cooking is not only nutritious and fun....it is inexpensive. Having been at one time lucky to have two nickles to rub together, I learned that you can make cheap meals. I learned how to, as my Mother once said to me, "stretch a chicken three ways to Sunday".

Here is one of my favorite ways to use up some left over pork or beef roast. Caution: free form recipe, which means I change it almost every time depending on what ingredients I have on hand

2 cups dried pinto beans or a combination of dried red, pinto, kidney beans
Bring to a boil. Turn off the pot and cover. Let set overnight.

Next day:
1 to 2 lbs of cubed raw pork or chuck meat or 3 cups cubed leftover meat
1 large onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
1- 2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch or two of chili flakes
1 large can of whole tomatoes

Simmer the pinto beans for a few hours before beginning the rest of the chili. Those little suckers are hard. Drain the pinto beans and set aside. In the same stew pot, using a little oil saute the raw meat until browned on all sides. If you are using the already cooked meat you obviously don't have to cook it as long. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and spices sautee until the onion begins to be limp. Drain the tomato juice from the can into the pot. Coarsly chop the tomatoes and throw them in. Add the beans back in and enough water or beef broth to cover the whole thing. Simmer for another couple of hours testing the beans for doneness. As I said those little guys are hard. Taste for flavor. If you like your chili done 5 alarm style you can add a larger pinch of the dried chili. If you prefer to keep your tastebuds from overloading, skip the dried chili. Add more liquid if needed. About 15 to 20 minutes before done, stir in a tablespoon or so of cornmeal to thicken the chili. If you like thin more souplike chili...then don't.

Serve with cornbread and a green salad. This makes enough to feed an army. At least 8 servings. The cost per chili serving using pork at $1.99 a pound, is calculated by my Living Cookbook program as less than $1.00. How cheap is that??

Nutrition (per serving): 439.7 calories; 38% calories from fat; 19.0g total fat; 80.5mg cholesterol; 390.4mg sodium; 1228.7mg potassium; 35.6g carbohydrates; 9.2g fiber; 3.3g sugar; 26.4g net carbs; 31.3g protein

Thursday, April 19, 2007

52 Sunday Dinners and Cottolene

What the heck is Cottolene? It was a product that was invented in the late 1800’s as a substitue for lard. Lard was considered a lower class food item. Lard was messy. People were becoming modern and more urbanized. Marketing of pre packaged products was in its infancy. Cottolene was a combination of cottonseed oil and beef tallow: two of today’s worst offenders in the war on fats. Beef suet that was including in the frying mixture at McDonald’s was the ingredient that gave the fries their distinctive flavor. Here is a link to an informative article about the long gone Cottolene product.

52 Sunday Dinners, by Elizabeth O Hiller, was published in 1915 as a promotion for the Cottolene product. This was a common practice to bring new foods to the consumer. Many people collect these promotional publications from companies like Jello, Nestle and Crisco.

People had different ideas about meals and the importance of eating together than we do now. On any given Sunday now, we are all going different directions and may not even eat at the same time or same table. Sunday dinners were an occasion to feast on the day of rest. Day of rest.... well, maybe not so much for the housewife who spent the day preparing the meal.

A sample dinner from 52 Sunday Dinners on the fourth Sunday in March is like this:

Cream of Lettuce
Baked Ham with Hot Horseradish Sauce
Sweet Potato Croquettes (fried in Cottolene of course)
Grapefruit salad
Cheese Balls
Rhubarb Tart
After Dinner Coffee

Always there was the after dinner coffee!!! I suspect they ate a bit earlier than we do now.

Here is the Ham and Horseradish Sauce in their very own words:

Select a lean ham, weighting from 12 to 14 pounds. Cover with cold water (or equal parts water and sweet cider) and let soak skin side up over night.

Drain, scrap and trim off all objectionable parts about the knuckle. Cover flesh side with a dough made of flour and water. Place in a dripping pan, skin side down.

Bake in a hot oven until dough is a dark brown; reduce heat and bake very slowly five hours. Ham enclosed in dough needs no basting.

Remove dough, turn ham over and peel off the skin. Sprinkle ham with sugar, cover with grated bread crumbs and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and decorate with cloves;place a paper frill on knuckle, garnish with sprays of parsley and lemon cut in fancy shapes.

Serve hot or cold

Notice no temperature instructions. Our housewife was most likely cooking on a wood stove. A hot oven was a matter of experience. Objectionable parts? I have no real idea here. No measurements either. It was assumed that the gentle reader of the cookbook already had a knowledge of cooking that was most likely learned in her own Mother's kitchen who learned it from her mother and so on. I like to envision it as an endless reflection of people looking into a mirror showing a reflection of themselves looking into the mirror and so on and so on.

Hot Horseradish Sauce

1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
1/4 cup fine cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp grated onion

Cook crumbs, horseradish and milk 20 minutes in double boiler. Add seasoning, vinegar and lemon juice slowly stirring constantly. Add grated onion, reheat and serve

I have made this horseradish sauce using the undiluted Tulelake horseradish. It is hot and my husband tends to temper it with some sour cream.

Old Cookbooks. A window into the past

I love to collect old cookbooks. I can buy some at a yard sale and happily sit down and read them like other people would novels. They contain much more than just recipes. A period cookbook can be a glimpse into ways of life that don’t exist anymore. A window looking in on how our parents and grandparents lived, cooked, entertained and the economics of the times. One book that I have was written during the ration years of WWII and involve how to make a cake without any of the standard ingredients that we take for granted today. Other books describe how to host a dinner party, during the Depression years, with less than the normal amount of servants, including lovely photos of how to dress your maid for afternoon or evening gatherings. There are descriptions of what the dedicated housewife of the 1950’s should prepare for the husband returning from work, with suggestions on how she should dress to greet him at the door.

Unlike today where we can go a super market and pick up any ingredient we want, imported from all over the world, there were times when ingredients were seasonal, local and just not available. Eggs from the chickens scratching in the backyard were abundant in the spring and scarce in winter. When there was such a plethora of eggs, our Grandmother’s coped by making Angel Food Cakes and Pound Cakes full of eggs.

Other ingredients that were commonly used have fallen out of favor or have been given the ax by nutritionists and the food police. Lard was replaced by Crisco. Now transfats like Crisco are being banned. Marbled beef is getting a bad rap. Butter was replaced by Oleo Margarine, however now we have gone back to butter again. Ingredients come and go. Gone but not forgotten in the cookbooks of yester-year.