Today we feature my birthday dinner, which I cooked myself, not that I minded one little bit. We had:
POTLUCK EGGS BENEDICT
1 16-oz. can green beans
3/4 cup margarine
3/4 c. flour
4 c. milk
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
1 lb. cubed cooked ham
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
8 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
10-12 biscuits, warmed
Melt butter in saucepan; stir in flour until smooth. Add milk & broth; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add ham & cheese, stir until cheese melt (do not boil after the cheese is in; nasty things will happen). Add eggs, salt, cayenne & green beans; heat through. Serve over biscuits. YIELD: 10-12 servings @ 295 cals each, if you divide it twelve ways. And not counting the biscuits.
Any of you who have eaten real Eggs Benedict may wonder why this is so far from the real thing. Well, the real thing has asparagus, doesn't it? I've checked myself over, trying to detect a desire to eat asparagus, and the desire is just not there. Therefore, the green beans.
The birthday cake was:
THIRTY-MINUTE COCOA CAKE
1 cups (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk*
1 tsp. vanilla
Quick Cocoa Frosting**
In medium saucepan, combine margarine, cocoa and water; bring to boil over medium heat, cooking until butter is melted; set aside. In large mixing bowl, stir togetehr sugar, flour, soda, and cinnamon. Add cocoa mixture; blend. (Save cocoa pan, unwashed, for making Quick Cocoa Frosting.) Beat together buttermilk and eggs; stir into batter. Add vanilla. Pour into ungreased 15x11 jelly roll pan. Bake at 400' for 20 minutes. Five minutes before cake is done, begin to make Quick Cocoa Frosting. Frost cake as soon as it comes from oven.
*Note: To make sour milk, measure 1/2 TB vinegar into measuring cup; add enough milk to make 1/2 cup. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
**Quick Cocoa Frosting: In medium saucepan combine 1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/3 cup milk. Bring to boil; simmer 3 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour over cake. Whole cake is 6650 calories. My recipe source (Winifred Jardine's Managing Your Meals) suggested adding raisins to the frosting, or even topping the cake with nuts. But why ruin a good cake?
As for the Finished Book Pile, we knocked off two works of non-fiction and one work of rather dated silliness. But here goes:
Naomi Schaefer Riley visited twenty religious colleges in America, including BYU and SVU and wrote God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America. For one thing, it was refreshing to read about people who actually want to be good. All these colleges have a few things in common: rules about dating and drinking, a tendency against political protest and certainly an interest in how to blend sacred and secular knowledge. Baylor University, in Texas, loosened its ties to its Southern Baptist Convention out of a fear that their more fundamentalist wing might exercise tighter control over the school. Baylor wants to be religiously observant, but it wants to be a first-rate university, too. Indeed, that is something all the colleges on Schaefer Riley's tour sought after: academic respect. There are probably dozens more religious colleges out there that really don't measure up.
As for blending secular and religious learning, she says, "Cultural discernment, that is, teaching students the best of what secular culture has to offer and providing them with the tools for examining it themselves, requires constant vigilance and a lot of forethought from religious college leaders, but the rewards for success are tremendous. Striking the right balance means producing graduates who are unafraid of the world, can participate in some aspects of it, change other parts of it, and all the while maintain their religious grounding."
Schaefer Riley is Jewish. Her tour of colleges included Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish and even Buddhist schools.
Next up: Never a City So Real by Alex Kotlowitz. This book is part of a series of "A Walk Through . . ." Kotlowitz writes about Chicago. The other Walk-Through books feature places like Rome, Nantucket, even Portland, OR.
Kotlowitz takes the reader into parts of Chicago I'm sure I would never have gone on my own. The whole book is little close-up portraits of city personalities. He portrays artists whose work is ignored in their hometown, but loved in Paris; a woman who owns a diner; a pugnacious man who fights mob-controlled cronyism in the suburb of Cicero.
Kotlowitz's politics become obvious to the reader right away. He hails from people who enjoy a good sit-in or a nice brick-throwing union riot.
And finally, I read Mr. Dooley's Opinions by Finley Peter Dunne. I don't remember where I got Dunne's name, but he is one of those writers that you might have known about had you been around to vote for Teddy Roosevelt. Dunne has since slipped into obscurity--deep obscurity. Opinions was a volume of sketches between Dooley and his friend Hennessy. Think of the old hecklers in The Muppet Show. Give them an Irish brogue and there you have it.
Actually, I couldn't take all the Dooley stories at once. I had to break them up with some other short stories, so I dipped into some John Updike, some Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." I really liked O'Brien's story about Vietnam soldiers. Look it up.