Thursday, February 25, 2010


(waves hands around furiously to clear out the cobwebs.... sorry folks, around here the past couple of weeks have been a holiday season around here, with Valentine's Day and Fat Tuesday being Holy Cooking Days around here, and then quickly followed by my birthday, and then a run of crappy weather combined with 3 massive document deadlines in three weeks - that made for some very lame dinners around these parts. I'll try to be beter. I promise. Really)

So... I will admit to being one of "those people" that LOVES watching shows about regional foods. One thing I love to do when I travel is sample whatever local thing is in the area. The hubby is like that too... only right now he's totally focused on "Hot & Juicy Crawfish" in Vegas being the next "local" thing he has to try. And I won't argue that one since I love me some crawfish.

One thing that has always seemed interesting has been Runzas. Apparently a Nebraska thing... people say "midwest" but I live in the Midwest and we don't have them around Chi-town. So, when I was flipping through a Cooks Illustrated special issue of "Forgotten Foods" in the Grocery store and found a recipe for Runzas.... I was all over that. I will not let the fact they involve yeast dough throw me!!

I actually made these on a "snow day" where I stayed home from work. I whipped up the dough while I was eating my lunch, took about 5 minutes to do, then I left it on the counter for an hour and then popped it in the fridge to wait for dinner time.

That's so happy dough!!

I actually made the filling a couple days before... I refuse to buy the totally irradiated ground beef at the chain grocery store, which means that the shelf life of the stuff from the produce mart (which has actual butchers and not just people in white coats) is less. But it's ground beef... cook now, use later.

Oh, it's mixed with some chopped onion and about half a bag of cole slaw mix that I had leftover from something else. Smart shopping....

Now, filling them was a little tricky. I tried just doing it in my hands before I decided to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS (really... you'd think a Technical Writer would follow instructions better than I do when it comes to recipes....) and I started using a bowl, which worked well. Roll out the dough, lay it in the bowl, put in a slice of American cheese, add meat, and then seal it up...

Threw them in the oven, and prayed to the Yeast Gods that all would turn out.
And it did!!

Some spillage/leakage, but nothing major. I liked them a lot... the hubby, not so much. Apparently the fact it's a rather sweet dough kinda threw him. He ate his one, but didn't go back for seconds. Which was fine with me... threw them in the freezer and ended up pulling one out for a lunch later in the week. Turned out to be a perfect lunch when I had about five minutes to try and eat before a meeting while I also needed to continue to work with at least one hand. (Leave it to the Germans to figure out how to make something that you can eat while also being productive).

Monday, February 15, 2010

What else says "Valentine's Day" like squid???

Happy belated Valentine's Day!!

So... the instant I saw it being made on TV, I wanted to try Braised Calamari Stuffed with Shrimp, Spinach and Herbs. When I mentioned it to the hubby, his reply was "You can do that?!?!?!?!!!!"

I always see frozen squid at the one market I go to and it is dirt cheap... why not try it?? And heck... it'll make a nice Valentine's Day dinner, right??

Oh, because the squid are TOTALLY NOT CLEANED?? That might be a reason.

I usually don't get squimish about food... but dead calamari eyes looking up at me as I tried to clean them? Not the most fun thing ever.

However, they were easy to clean. Really. Pulled apart easily, I thought the outter membrane was going to be hard to peel off... totally not.

The filling? As long as you have a food processor, totally easy. I'd consider doing just the filling as some nice seafood burgers in a minute. And I used frozen chopped spinach, mainly because I was not smart and did not check the recipe before I went shopping. But it all turned out OK.

Now, the actual recipe calls for larger squid than I had. Which is probably well worth the effort to find, since filling the calamari tubes was not easy. The way I was fumbling with them and trying to get them filled... well... maybe it was just the Valentine's Day mood... but all I could think about was condoms. And I am not good with condoms. I've "been" with the hubby since I was 18 and I am well into "30" territory now, and while we've been married only since 2004... well... I was thankful to be on the pill and not have to deal with condoms too much. Because my crappy lack of manual dexterity leaves me totally frustraited.

And, apparently, when you're dealing with small squid, it's much the same situation.

But... being Valentine's Day and all... I finally managed to get the buggers filled....

And then into a sauce bath for 20 minutes. Didn't make my own sauce. Used Prego. Deal with it.

Overall?? Hubby loved them, and since I did the squid ahead of time it was quick when I actually got dinner started. I don't know if I was still picturing dead squid eyes or what... I didn't enjoy as much. Mind you... cooked perfectly, nice and tender, but it just wasn't floating my boat.
Oh, and while I was worried that I wasn't filling the squid tubes enough... totally not a problem. The filling expands as it cooks and I had a couple small squid blowouts... but still, all turned out OK.
So... filling? Awesome.
Small squid? Do they make a pill for that????

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reading Rainbow.....

Since discovering I can read PDF ebooks on my Palm, I've been reading.

A LOT. Like, during the jobless period, I polished off a book and a half a DAY. Sadly, it now takes me like two days (sometimes three, with all the new TV on) to finish a book.

One of the first things I started out with was the "Twilight" series. I know people who have read all the books and they gushed about them. Hey, I did my time as a goth back in my 20s... should have been right up my alley.

I'm also HUGELY into vampire myths and stories. The later high school years and all of college were almost a challenge to see which courses I could use to do research on vampires for term papers... of course English (and British literature), history, religion... vampires helped get me through college.

Which is why I was surprised that I *hated* the whole Twilight series and the rest of the world thinks I'm nuts because of that. (I don't know it exactly but Alan Ball summed part of it up for me... a vampire story without the element of sex is pretty pointless. It's supposed to be an exploration of all things dark and dangerous and forbidden - all parts of human nature that are better "explained" by being not human. NOT supernatural creatures that "sparkle").

And I'm not even going to go into the overall writing quality of the novels except to say "bad".

So, yeah, after I once go caught in a discussion of the whole Twilight thing at the grocery store and the check-out girl looked at me like I had two heads (or maybe just one non-sparkle one) when I said I didn't like the books... I knew I was in the minority.

Enter... Nightlight. The brilliantly written, Harvard Lampoon take on the whole thing.

And it is BRILLIANT.

And at least from Amazon reviews, there is some hope for humanity in people that say they were fans of the series but still liked Nightlight, too.

I started reading it on the plane ride to Vegas, but had to stop since I kept getting odd looks from people when I'd laugh at something (and right after that whole Detroit scare, I didn't feel like causing a National Incident) but I did finally get around to finishing it, and found it to be very entertaining. I'm trying to get the hubby to pass it on to one guy he works with who has a wife that is in love with the Twilight series, so he's forced into all things "Team Edward/Team Joseph" by marriage. (I wish someone would have made "Team Apocalypse That Unmakes It All" shirts, but I was not so lucky.) I know he'd get a kick out of it while he tried to hide his humor from his wife.

If you hated Twilight, you'll probably like it. If you liked Twilight, you might like it. And if you just want this whole Twilight thing to be over... well, ya still got another movie (right? the second one came out or am I just being hopeful??) to go.