Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God on the Quad

Today we feature my birthday dinner, which I cooked myself, not that I minded one little bit. We had:


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:


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*
2 eggs
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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Poor little recipes need a note pinned to their shirts

Today we feature some of the family favorites, the dishes that the kids ask for again and again, mostly when they want to make something to take to the potluck dinner. The trouble is, every time they want to cook these favorite dishes, they can't find the copy of the recipe Mom sent to them.

So let's put them up here on the blog and be done with it.

Pizza in a Bowl


6 eggs
2 1/4 c. light brown sugar
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. butter (not margarine)
3 c. peanut butter
9 c. uncooked oatmeal
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. M&Ms

In a large bowl mix all ingredients in order listed. Drop dough from well rounded tablespoon (or small ice cream scoop) on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten cookies (six cookies to a sheet). Bake at 350' for 12 minutes. Don't overbake. Allow to cool 1 minute. These freeze well. 1/36 of this batch--and that's a mighty big cookie but why else do they call it "monster"?--equals 390 calories. Try not to overdo yourself.

Over on the Finished Book Pile, we feature Poor White by Sherwood Anderson. If you like a story that talks about a town and everybody in it--the strange guy out at the telegraph office, the huckster that schemes for wealth as he piggybacks onto somebody else's idea, the oldsters who can't stand change and the young folks who swirl with the ambitions of their age, you would probably like Poor White. Set in fictional Bidwell, Ohio, just as the machine age ushers in, it portrays a vigorous, hopeful time that I'm kind of sorry I missed.

The author, though, regretted the coming of the machines. His "most sensual" passages (according to reviewers) lament the passing of a bucolic age. Yes, I might like to have seen farm towns when they were full of people. These days, they're shells of their former selves.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The student snuck in some fun reading.

Along with all the Chekhov and O-Connor I read for class last fall, I snuck in some just-for-fun reading. There was Infidel, a memoir by a Somalian woman, Ayann Hirsi Ali. Her childhood was divided between Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Her father was often away, leading the resistance against a Somalian dictator. Finally, her mother, parked in Kenya, told him to never come back. So he didn’t. He went off and married another wife.

And there was Which Brings Me To You by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott. Two lovers start with a one-night stand at a wedding, then back off and write each other confessional letters. I got a nice New York/Philly/Hoboken fix from it, but had to skip many cow patties.

That a person would have sex with so many other people is getting tiresome.

Anyway, here's a dinner that we ate and Jim and Mercy's house, right about the time that little Kimball finally started to catch on to what is day and what is night. His sleepy but marvelously patient parents sat down to:  French Country Casserole and Toffee Ice Cream Dessert.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Suspense and pathos

The spy book has me gripped.

It bogged down in the middle.

Then the author got involved in Watergate. Since he was a novelist as well as a spy, his story skillfully unfolded as he met G. Gordon Liddy, embarking on White House-assigned projects that may have been legally questionable, but felt perfectly normal to a CIA man who once organized the Bay of Pigs operation.

Then, as Watergate commences and builds in increments, he portrays small moments when he can feel that he's in a little bit of trouble, nothing big, he can clear it up soon. Then the trouble feels a little bigger, but he still doesn't get the whole picture. Then a reporter from the Washington Post calls and he's like, "Wait a minute. Why is this so interesting to you?" The sense of "Uh-oh" just grows.

For your recipe, here's what we enjoyed with soup and biscuits yesterday:  Bacon-Cheddar Deviled Eggs

Skooby wasn't sure he liked his little taste of deviled egg, but the rest of us chowed down.