Monthly Archives: February 2019

THE OSCARS – I DIDN’T WIN

Well, the Oscars show is over and I didn’t win. That is, I didn’t win the annual family contest of picking the winners. As I mentioned in my previous post, I thought that my granddaughter would not be participating. That would give me a chance. How wrong I was. She had emailed her choices ahead of time and kept in touch during the ceremony. The stakes were higher this year, as my son-in-law had purchased a trophy for the winner along with a $20 gift card.  In the end, the results were the same as the last two years: my granddaughter won and Susan came in second, this time tied with my son-in-law. It is clear that I have no future as a movie critic.

In the meantime, the food was great. Delicious sliders with all the fixings  – definitely not Harold and Kumar’s White Castle (A nod to a family joke). There were also Carol’s popular mushroom soup, shrimp and dipping sauce, crudités with dip, cheese straws, Texas trash, and brownies with whipped cream along with marinated mushrooms at Carol’s request.

Diane’s marinated mushrooms is a recipe from our family cookbook. We got it from Diane Miller, the wife of the first associate I ever hired, back in 1977. The recipe has been a favorite with the whole family, especially Carol whose first word – after Mama and Dada, of course – was “muf-woom” to indicate that a mushroom was what she wanted to eat. The recipe calls for button mushrooms, but if you can only find large ones, you can cut them into halves or quarters. The mushrooms shrink with boiling and marinating.

RECIPE

Diane’s Marinated Mushrooms

Ingredients

  •  1½ pounds white button mushrooms (creminis work just fine)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (You can use wine vinegar if you prefer)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoon sugar
  • bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • several whole peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Method

  1. Prepare the mushrooms by wiping off the caps and, if necessary, cutting into halves or quarters. Bring the water to the boil, add the lemon juice and then the mushrooms. Return to the boil for 3 minutes. Drain and cool the mushrooms.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by combining all the remaining ingredients.
  3. Add the boiled mushrooms to the marinade. Marinate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Drain. Serve at room temperature with picks. Makes about 2 cups, enough for 6 to 8 persons as an appetizer with drinks.

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TIME FOR THE OSCARS, TIME FOR TEXAS TRASH

After two years, I have clearly adopted some of the behaviors and activities of Angelinos. One of those is a fascination with Hollywood. Well, not really, but I do pay more attention to the movies  and have returned to watching the Oscars after a decades-long absence. A major reason for that is our family. On Oscar night, our regular  Sunday family dinner has been supplanted by our gathering in front of the television. Dinner is finger food on a buffet so that you can replenish your plate during commercial breaks. My son-in-law in his professional life is a serious, no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy. Around home he is quiet and considerate and also an expert on contemporary music and movies. He knows the names of all the actors, even the walk-ons, and usually knows some interesting tidbit about them. Same is true of current bands and singers. For that reason he is in charge of organizing Oscar Night. (They might want to consider him for the job of organizing the real Oscar show.) He makes ballots so that each family member can indicate his or her choice for the winner. There is excitement throughout the evening with the uncertainty of who will make the most correct picks. It is usually a tight race between my granddaughter and Susan. My granddaughter is also a movie aficionado so it is expected that she will do well. But the surprise is Susan who has no interest in the movies and is still able to pick the winners. This year, Susan may have the field to herself as my granddaughter is off to college. Her prize for winning will be that she has bested all the others in this very competitive family.

Meanwhile, Carol is in charge of the food. Trust me, there is just as much competitive pressure to deliver on the food as there is to win the Oscar picks. She will probably make sliders, her famous pinwheels, and maybe her elegant cheese puff pastry. She asked me to make cheese straws and brownies. Both are long-time family favorites. I decided to make some Texas Trash as well. This is another family favorite, and it lends itself to noshing in front of the TV. The recipe is SIMPLE. You can also find a similar recipe on any box of Chex cereal. These days you can also find it ready made, but like most things it’s not as good as homemade. The recipe makes about 10 cups, which should be enough for the five of us, but I expect that it will be gone at the end of the Oscars.

Who do you think will win the Oscars?

RECIPE

Texas Trash

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (one stick) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 2 cups Wheat Chex
  • 2 cups Corn Chex
  • 2 cups Rice Chex
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1 cup mini pretzels

Method

  1. Place the melted butter in a very large mixing bowl. Add the Worcestershire sauce and the seasoned salt, stirring to make sure they are well combined.
  2. Stir in the three cereals, stirring gently to make sure the butter mixture is evenly distributed and completely absorbed.
  3. Add the nuts and pretzels.  Stir to combine and transfer to a large rimmed baking pan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour in the middle of the oven preheated to 250° F , stirring every 15 minutes to make sure the mixture is evenly coated.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container.

Cook’s note: This is not like baking a soufflé, so measurements are not precise. The ingredient list is also variable. If you want to add or substitute peanuts or different pretzels or bagel chips, do it. If you want more flavoring like chile powder or dry ranch dressing mix, add it. Whatever you do will probably taste good, and the Texas Trash will be gone before you know it.

 

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POPCORN

I love popcorn. So does nearly everyone in the family. I grew up on popcorn. It was cheap and found in many places: the dime store always had the popper going with steam pouring out of the doors and the popper spilling fresh kernels into a fragrant pile; the movie theater sold little paper bags filled to overflowing; my mother made it just about every night after dinner. She used  a pressure cooker with just a little oil and constant shaking over the gas flame. Later she got a wire popcorn basket on a long handle as a gift. Even with practice, much of the popped kernels came out burned. Then she got a machine with a wire that turned on the bottom to keep the popped kernels from burning. She used that for years even as it lost its gleam with age.

Sarah’s boys beg for popcorn. She makes it in an “air popper” that uses a hot air blower akin to a hair dryer to pop the kernels. She fills up a big metal bowl and then tosses the hot popcorn with melted butter, salt, and finely grated fresh Parmesan. Who wouldn’t one beg for that?

René makes popcorn for her girls on Friday evening to enjoy while watching a movie. She sprinkles nutritional yeast to her version, reflecting her enthusiasm for a healthy diet.

Carol’s household has been limiting their popcorn because of a vey long spell of braces for teenagers. Now that braces have come off, popcorn popping has returned to the culinary repertoire.

As for me, I rely on the microwave. I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that prepackaged microwave popcorn is the most popular way to make the treat at home. The main drawback to that method is that it is relatively expensive. Being a tightwad, I buy two-pound bags of loose kernels. Our family prefers yellow over white – the popped kernels are bigger. For years I have used a popping method I learned about by watching Elton Brown’s “Good Eats” many years ago.  I place 1/3 cup of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, close the bag with two folds, staple the fold with two staples at least 3 inches apart (to avoid arcing in the microwave) and microwave. I set the microwave timer for 3 minutes but pull the bag out of the oven when the sound of popping slows. That usually occurs at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but you need to experiment with your own microwave as they are extremely variable in the power they produce. When the corn is popped, I pull it out of the microwave, cut off the top of the bag with scissors, and dump the popped corn into a bowl for melted butter and salt.

I thought I had the perfect system. So I was surprised when I opened a Christmas gift from Susan. It was an Ecolution Micro-Pop® Popcorn Popper. Essentially it dresses up Elton Brown’s idea with an attractive glass bowl housed in a bright red plastic carrier and topped with a red lid that doubles as a dispenser for butter. It makes less popcorn than the brown paper bag method, but it is plenty for one person and it is easy to make a second or third batch. Time in the microwave is about the same, but you need to listen and stop the popping just the same  as with the paper bag. I was tempted to use more corn kernels – actually I did – and I strongly advise against it as the popped corn will burn and it will be hard to get it out of the popper. All in all it’s a good and fun method to pop corn. Still, I plan to hold onto my paper bags.

One last comment: Recently we spent a few days in Avalon on Catalina Island. One of our restaurant choices was the Avalon Grille (excellent choice, by the way) where they brought us a basket of delicately chili-flavored popcorn to go with drinks. The taste was light and refreshing, not at all what you might think when you hear “chili-flavored popcorn.” At home, I tried to reproduce the flavor. I mixed equal parts of table salt, vinegar powder (available from Pendery’s Spices) and ground chiles (You can use as mild or piquant as you wish.) Then I used the mixture to season popcorn that had already been buttered. My version was not as good as the original, but it was still good enough to do again.

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