Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Annoying the Middle School Pig

Saw this in the classroom of my daughter' seventh grade math teacher: "Never teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig."

Clever saying...I guess. Why, though, would this be good for a teacher to post in her middle school classroom? Is this a positive attitude? Am I taking this too seriously and it is actually funny?

Email me, please. I need clarity from wiser minds.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Food Porn

On a FoodTV program today, I watched a celeb chef make a dish that defies the imagination in both richness and extreme fat and calories. He split a large, buttery croissant, dipped it in an egg-and-cream batter, and fried it French-toast style in butter. It was then filled with a heap of warm carmelized, sugared cinnamon apples and topped generously with powdered sugar.

The chef and chef's admirer licked their fingers while cooing over their divine creation. The camera lovingly captured the dripping confection from several angles through a gauze lens usually reserved for aging film stars. After watching this culinary orgy, I understood the meaning of the phrase "food porn."

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2003


None of us remembers my sister's husband wearing a tie and jacket during the past twenty years. None of us ever remembers him entering a church. He is a homebody who hates to travel. He rarely shops for anything.

He wore a tie and jacket yesterday, and attended my daughter's wedding in a church 450 miles from his home. He was unhappy with my sister's choice of a wedding gift, so he went shopping and bought something special just from him. He felt strangled by the tie and jacket though, and changed into casual clothes before the reception. He didn't socialize much. He must have been the only married man present with his own separate gift for the newlyweds.

A few shook their heads and chuckled that he can be relied on to be difficult and different. He has no regard for protocol.

I guess it depends on your perspective. Ron and I are grateful for the love and respect he showed for his niece and the occasion by getting outside his comfort zone to be there for her.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Salsa and Sin

The tomatillo salsa (Sept 19) was excellent...lively, citrusy and refreshing, spicy but not too. When my alchemy was done, the salsa was made of ten tomatillos, finely diced; two medium onions, chopped; one bunch of cilantro; two tablespoons or so of chopped garlic; canola oil; a teaspoon of Tabasco; and a fair amount of McCormick's lemon pepper. It was almost addictive served with tortilla strips heated nacho-style with monterey jack cheese and Mexican crema. My recipe is similar to one on page 200 in "Savor the Southwest" by Barbara Pool Fenzl, except that she adds a serrano chili and olive oil, rather than the lighter canola.

Yesterday, I heard that an ice-breaker question at a mens' church fellowship breakfast was "What are your three favorite sins?" (Happily, I didn't hear any of the responses!) The question intrigues me.....the vulnerability and honesty needed to answer it in a public forum (or at all) ; the meaning of favorite; the "safe harbor" trust of that group to enable the question to be asked and answered. The question causes me to more closely examine my definition of sin. Hey buddy, this question is very personal!

If in Nevada and with time on my hands, I do like to play the quarter slot machines. That last happened two or three years ago in Las Vegas. Slot machines are so odd: they are just machinery and blinking lights and big piggy banks for the casinos. We all know that. Yet something happens after fifteen minutes of pulling the arm of a one-armed bandit. A feeling takes over, a weird high of hope and persistence and of, well, greed. You absolutely feel that your fortune is one pull away and that all your financial worries will be solved forever. Fortunately, I can walk away. Also, my husband loiters around me bored if slot-machine fever hits, and makes impatient gestures once I've dropped $40 or $50. Slot machine fever is a sin.

My sometimes over-the-top maternal pride can appear to others as sin, I guess. I honestly believe that my two daughters, son and stepson are marvelous, unrepeatable miracles, and as sappy and phony as this sounds, I never get over being humbled at the gift of being their mother. (I can bore people for hours with tales of my kids, much the way my parents did with slides from their trips to Hawaii. We all thought we might die if we saw another slide of tropical flowers.) Over the years, a few have personalized my maternal pride to mean that I am saying something negative about their children, in comparison. That has never, ever been in my heart or mind. There must be sin in this. I need to think about it more.

Favorite secret food sin....banana pecan pancakes at IHOP. And today, tomatillo salsa.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

My New Title

My 26 year old daughter is getting married soon to a great and wonderful guy. They will be adding the new roles and responsibilities of husband and wife to their busy lives. They have been engaged for eleven months, yet it just dawned on me today that I, too, will be taking on new responsibilities. I will possess that most maligned and dreaded title, mother-in-law.

I recently saw a TV commercial hawking a particular internet service. The spot featured a thirty-something wife asking her husband why he hadn't told her about the twenty emails her mother sent, asking to come visit them. He feigned innocence, and even showed her his in-box with no emails from Mom. Seems that, unbeknownst to his wife, he had turned on a handy feature that blocked Mom's emails.

OK...making a nuisance out of myself to the newlyweds might not be a super idea, nor, apparently, would moving in for a few weeks be welcomed with open arms. But I can't help myself: I feel compelled to give advice to my beloved daughter as she starts her new life. Listed below is what I have so far. Please email me soon with suggestions...the wedding is only six days away, and I have a role to live up to.

1. Choose to be kind to each other, even when you don't feel like it.
2. Worship and pray together.
3. Don't let your job take all your time and energies. Save the best for home.
4. Set aside specific time to spend together each week. Sunday afternoon works well for many pre-child couples.
5. Share a passion together...be it music, mountain biking or cooking.
6. Appreciate and compliment.
7. One word: lingerie.
8. Separate bathrooms, if at all possible. Trust me on this.
9. Smile. God is good.
10. Again, worship and pray together.

God bless you both.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Food Crimes

The price of pecans is a food crime. Check filet mignon. It might be less expensive.

The hidden fat in supermarket chicken. Consumers think they are buying a low-fat, low-calorie entree, but look more closely and you will see the hunks of fat. It is disgusting. On thighs, breasts and "best of the fryer," it is on the bottom and underneath the edges of the skin. For whole chickens, it is mainly along the edges of the open cavity and especially the other end. Take about fifteen minutes to cut this fat away. Your chicken will taste much better and be far healthier.

Lunchables. Enough said.

Any sugared cereal that causes kids to think they are eating cookies, candy or dessert for breakfast.

Bologna. (See Lunchables, above.)

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Indian Summer Produce and Freedom

Indian summer produce is zesty and plump in late September, so I couldn't resist browsing in a local Mexican market again. With my purchases, I plan to create a fresh tomatillo salsa this weekend from fragrant cilantro, perfectly ripe tomatillos, onions, fresh lime juice and a couple secret ingredients. Also planning to make one of my signature salads of sliced roma tomatoes and cucumbers, mozzarella cheese and key lime viniagrette to pair with roast beef for Sunday family dinner.

There is freedom in eating healthy with this type of protein and veggie emphasis. It tastes delicious and refreshing, is satisfying, and best of all, our cholestral counts have never been better. Mine is now 151, Ron's is down to 195, and our other blood tests were equally positive. Now about the weight....working on that. Like always. Honest. I am. Really. :)

But there is nothing appealing or sexy about a food writer talking health. It doesn't sell books or newspapers unless it makes false or sensational promises. It reminds people of their shortcomings. It isn't fun or energizing or even very hopeful. Writing about healthy cooking commits the unpardonable publishing sin....it is boring.

Too bad because cooked simply and well, the tastes I mentioned here, for instance, are vibrant and delightful and the dishes are satisfying. It just takes a little imagination, a few extra minutes, and love for your family.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Delicious Failure

No cookbook on fudge has been published in the US for twelve years, and now I know why. Back then, fudge was still made using fussy, complex methods concocted by our grandmothers. Their recipes demanded elaborate and time-consuming techniques, and involved precise temperatures and professional thermometers, perfect weather conditions, sinks of ice, special pans, unused wooden spoons and hours of patience.

Absolutely no one, these days, has the time or patience or even experience to successfully master many of the old-fashioned fudge recipes. My fudge cookbook-in-progress uses scrumptious, time-saving ingredients that did not exist in grandma's time, and infuses fudge with new flavors and trends from the Starbucks decade.

However...here comes the "but"....grandma had some darned good recipes, and I should include a few in the book. You need to know that I am a competent long-time cook, intuitive and creative, experienced enough to turn near disasters into culinary triumphs. I have now tackled three old-style fudge recipes, and not one has been 100% successful. One yielded vanilla walnut fudge soup, excellent as a dip for cold apple slices.(Diagnosis- too much humidity for it to correctly set.) Another resulted in delicious buttery Kahlua caramels. (Diagnosis-too much ice immersion and too quickly, causing it to set too firmly. The opposite of the vanilla walnut fudge soup problem.) This week, I made latte fudge, using cream, expresso, organic cinnamon and good quality vanilla. The taste was extraordinary, but it...did...not...set...again!!! I cheated this time...stuck it in the the refrig after a day of unrequited anticipation, and it finally set to my satisfaction, but the uber-cold caused the texture to become grainy.

Is there a message here? I don't know. Maybe. I taught my youngest that the keys to success include persistence, patience and humility.

I now have the humility, at least. And a new respect for my grandmother.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Apples, Trees and Prodigals

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Or so the old saying goes in describing the alikeness of children and their parents.

Problem is that for the children of divorces, there are two trees.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Flea Market Finds

In early fall, the Saturday morning flea markets, rummage sale fund-raisers and neighborhood yard sales are full of undiscovered treasures. Today, I found a sorbet scoop, a professional-grade candy thermometer and a stainless steel cake icing knife, each for a dime. Books I found include a first edition of the classic "The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean" by Paula Wolfert ($1) and a hardback copy of the beautiful 370-page "Martha Stewart Weddings" ($1). My favorite find was an antique Pyrex loaf pan (fifty cents) in a hard-to-find large size and shape. It will be perfect for an old-fashioned meatloaf on a crisp fall evening, one of Ron's favorite comfort food meals.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Richest Imaginable Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Been testing recipes the last day or so for my cookbook-in-progress on fudge. The peanut butter chocolate fudge is exquisite when premium ingredients, such as Laura Scudder Natural Peanut Butter (crunchy!), C&H Professional ultrafine baker's sugar and Ghirardelli chocolate, are used. I am thinking of naming it the Richest Imaginable Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge.

Also made a white almond fudge, with cream cheese and powdered sugar as the base. The taste is extraordinary, and the recipe is almost too simple. Cookbook buyers want complex, I hear, so it will need a few more ingredients. I did add a smidge of half-and-half to the recipe, and topped it with toasted, sliced almonds. Please email me with name suggestions for this fudge. (No, I don't have samples to send. Honest...it is not necessary to taste it in order to name it.

The news headlines this morning include the death of comedic actor John Ritter. I grew up watching him on "Three's Company." He was funny and talented, and a decent guy from all reports. I enjoyed his performance in the obscure film "They All Laughed," directed by Peter Bogdanovich and released in 1981.
His sudden death seems premature and a bit shocking to this fellow baby boomer.

One of the nice things about getting older: you learn how to get yourself past sadness and loss. I rode my bike 4.5 miles, read from my Bible, and then of course, baked a cake. Carrot cake from a Betty Crocker Super Moist mix, plus added cinnamon, freshly ground cloves and a touch of ginger. Our Friday Night group is benefitting greatly from my recipe testing and life coping.

On to testing a recipe for Latte Fudge.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

God's Grace

Memories of watching the World Trade Center towers collapse two years ago are still vivid and painful for me. In the 1980s, I worked for an international firm in downtown Los Angeles that also had an office in Tower 2. The news carried stories of employees from my former firm who called loved ones after the first tower was hit. They told family and friends that everything was fine. Several said they had an important meeting in progress and had to keep their priorities straight. Within minutes, they perished with the tower while still in their meeting.

Los Angeles experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake at 7:42 AM on October 1, 1987. I was driving the freeway to the office at the time, and never once thought to return home or even pull off the road. Priorities, you know. I was irritated by the slow, snarled traffic, as I had a meeting and was late. Once parked and in front of 911 Wilshire Blvd, we were told that the partner/manager meeting was vital and must go on. It was almost impossible to mesh all our schedules. Now that we were all there...well, you know. Priorities. The elevators were not functioning, so we climbed twenty-one floors, and we required the support staff to do the same.

Tiles had fallen from the ceiling, furniture and file cabinets had moved, and papers were strewn everywhere. We converged our meeting, barely noticing the chaos. We were focused on our priorities. We met for two hours, and felt the building sway from two aftershocks during the course of the meeting. Unbenownst to us, the Human Resources department announced that anyone who felt in danger was excused for the day. Every employee not in that meeting left the premises. Our meeting was so important, that the sound system had been turned off to avoid unnecessary interruptions. Priorities.

When the meeting ended, we were stunned to discover that we were alone on the twenty-second floor. One indignant partner proclaimed, "Sandbaggers. They're just not committed. Probably out shopping right now." I, and we, worked in our offices for several more hours before knocking off early about 3 PM. We had to take care of our priorities before going home.

Today, I can't remember the topic of the meeting.

Memories of watching the World Trade Center towers collapse two years ago are still vivid and painful for me. There, but for the grace of God, go you and me.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Martha and Me

See my letter of support for Martha Stewart published by her organization today at www.MarthaTalks.com. Click on the Notes to Martha page, and look under September 9, 2003.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Stolen Minutes at a Local Ethnic Grocery Market

Yesterday, I stole a few minutes to enjoy the simple pleasures of a local ethnic grocery market. I bought twelve fat handmade beef tamales for $11. The butcher wouldn't sell me his last two chicken tamales because they were "too watery." The roma tomatoes were perfectly red ripe and and cost half of that charged by Albertsons. It is bell pepper season, and they were huge, aromatic and grass green. An employee smiled and boasted that the salsa and Mexican crema were freshly made that day. There were six varieties of apples, but they had not been waxed or oiled like at the chain supermarkets.

The check out register doesn't always work well, and it rang up my three pounds of tomatoes as $94.12. The clerk apologized too many times. The two behind me in line chuckled in patience. People were lined up at a tiny window to pay phone bills or Western Union money to Mexico,and their line blocked the exit.

This is not some trendy farmer's market in an urban area with no farm land within fifty miles (Do you ever wonder where all those "farmers" come from?), nor is it Williams-Sonoma set in a strip mall. The building is shabby, and the glass doors are smudged with childrens' fingerprints. The parking lot has potholes and too few parking spaces. The air conditioning system is too small for the building. The store is rich with smells and sounds and people of all ages.

It is the kind of store that tourists visit when in other countries, and brand as colorful and exotic. It is the kind of store they never visit in their hometown.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Hypocrisy of Capital Punishment

Paul Hill, a former Presbyterian pastor, was executed this week for the crime of killing a doctor who performed legal abortions. This means that the state of Florida legally killed a man for the illegal act of killing one doctor who legally killed hundreds of babies. Mr Hill justified his crime by citing legalized capital punishment. Per Mr. Hill, he was enforcing God's mandate of capital punishment as a method to deter the killing of many others. Isn't this one of the arguments our government uses to support the death penallty? Why was Mr. Hill a criminal for killing a person to save the lives of others, yet the state was justified in killing Mr. Hill for the same reason?

Pure hypocrisy. This is to be expected in a society that does not respect each and every person's inalienable right to life.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com..

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Orange & Chocolate Muffins

Made orange muffins with a touch of chocolate, using the Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Orange Supreme cake mix. I simply followed the instructions today, plus added one package of pre-melted unsweetened chocolate. The aroma is luscious and light, and the muffins are moist and delicate. Next time, I will use orange juice in lieu of water to create a more intense flavor. Also, the chocolate didn't swirl as I hoped, but dispersed throughout the muffins during baking. (Well, we have found a lump or two of precious chocolate.) My family will like them, though. Yielded twenty-four muffins for breakfast and snacks.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Welcome to My World of Craziness

This blog will be devoted to people, ideas and things I am crazy about, which is a lot. I have often been labeled "crazy" for my myriad of passions and ambitions.
You know...."You're crazy. That can't be done," or "Are you crazy? That will never change," or even "Don't even go there. You would be crazy." How about "You're crazy to still care about him/her/that. Give it up."

Welcome to my world of craziness.....crazy love, crazy curiosity, crazy faith, crazy caring. It is great to have you here with me.

Send emails to me at DeborahWhite@UniqueRecipes.com.