Cooking from Memories

pork tomatillo stew

Memoir is an interesting genre. The work is autobiographical, but the author chooses to emphasize a specific theme and/or focus on a shorter period of their life rather than telling their whole story. I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies, because I can learn about worlds that are completely different than mine without leaving earth. Sometimes I am tempted to covet their wealth and opportunity.  At other times the character’s struggle and despair are such that I am reminded to be thankful for the eternal hope that I have.

One of my favorite popular authors is Ruth Reichl. When she shares stories from her past you can feel along with her. When she describes the aromas, flavors, and textures of an amazing meal you are as satisfied as if you had been sitting at the table with her.

Recipes are sprinkled through Reichl’s books. This morning I took inventory of the ones that are included in Tender at the Bone.  A stew made from pork and tomatillos was especially interesting to me, because the bag of tomatillos from Produce Junction was larger than I had needed for a large batch of green sauce.

Ruth instructs the cook to prepare the stew on the stovetop. However, my Saturday plans wouldn’t allow me to babysit a simmering stew for two hours. Instead, after browning the pork and sauteeing the garlic and onions, I tossed everything into a crockpot.

Four hours later, we were home and ready for supper. My husband said the “juice” was good, but he isn’t so sure about the beans being included. I can’t say that the stew was amazing, but I can’t say that it is the recipe’s fault, either. When I cut the recipe in half some of the ratios didn’t quite match.   Also, I don’t keep “dark beer” on hand, so my blackstrap molasses substitute certainly affected the flavor.


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Summer Reading

strawberries creme fraiche book

Market-Fresh Strawberries & Home-Made Crème Fraîche


In case you’d like a taste of what I’m reading, here are two samples from a book I purchased yesterday.

“I do believe, against all the odds, that cream will be with us for a long time yet, despite its well-known high cholesterol content. After all, who in their heart of hearts would want to be without crème brûlée, the best vanilla ice cream, or clotted cream on a scone with strawberry jam?”

“Crème fraîche The only sort of cream to be found in Europe. It is a shock the first time you try it because of its sharp taste. ‘Oh, it’s off,’ people cry. I have never discovered the reason why this cream has been deliberately soured, but for something so rich, it is curiously refreshing and particularly good with chocolate things. I don’t like cooking with it; it separates more easily than any cream I know.”

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham

A newspaper clipping left between the first few pages of the book give a good explanation of the difference between an American cookbook and one you might find in Britain. In addition to pointing out that American cookbooks are big, heavy, and “include several dozen profound-looking photographs”, the review accuses Americans of “glamour, swagger [and] religious uplift”.  In contrast, the British author of Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson, shares personal favorites in a simple and pleasant manner.

In his introduction, the author admits that he is not a novelist. You can tell that he isn’t a professional recipe-writer, either. Last night I was chuckling out loud at the way he explained some instructions. His work is fun to read because you can tell that he likes to cook and that he enjoys eating good food.

As I looked at the titles of various chapters listed in the Table of Contents, I see there are more than a few ingredients that will probably not make it into my kitchen: brains, hake, squab, sweetbreads, tripe… but it won’t hurt to store some of the information in my head.

I look forward to dipping into this book from time to time over the next few summer months, and perhaps even trying some of the recipes that don’t require turning on the oven.





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Rummy Eggnog & Buttery Root Beer

Some holiday treats are quite good bought from the store. Others are best homemade.  Two of my coworkers were pleased with Aldi’s gourmet stollen that I gave to them as gifts. Maybe because I’m not really a fan of marzipan, stollen isn’t high on my list of Christmas foods, though. The price of the stollen was quite reasonable, especially considering the cost of marzipan, almonds, and dried fruit–not to mention the value of one’s time around Christmas.

One of our friends gave us a gift bag with two bottles of gourmet soda on Christmas night. Although it isn’t Rowling’s butter beer, Olde Philadelphia root beer definitely has buttery characteristics. Thanks Waggoners! A special thanks to Sharon, too, for the H.P. tie (Joel says he wouldn’t mind getting one every Christmas.).

rootbeer and tie.JPG

Eggnog can be tricky. Many of the cartons that you find at your local grocery store are overloaded with nutmeg. If you decide to make your own, you either have to risk salmonella poisoning or figure out how to cook the eggs without ending up with a curdled beverage…although you can put it in the blender and/or pass the lumpy liquid through a fine sieve if your texture isn’t as smooth as you would like.

Here is the recipe I tried this week:


1 1/3c milk

2 cloves

1/8 t vanilla

¼ t cinnamon


4 egg yolks

½ c sugar


Rum flavoring

1 1/3 c half & half

¾ t vanilla

1/8 t nutmeg


Combine first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over lowest heat for 5 minutes, eventually bringing it to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is fluffy.

Add a little bit of the hot milk mixture to the eggs to balance the temperature. Gradually combine the two mixtures. Heat them over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it thickens. Do not boil the mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the rum flavoring, half & half, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Add the hot mixture to this. Pour the liquid into a container that has a lid, and put it in the fridge to cool overnight.  This made 4 servings for us.



And to all of you who have been wondering how the mincemeat turned out?

The bottled stuff is probably more satisfying, even though the price tag can seem high. My filling wasn’t as rich as I expected…but maybe I’m remebering chess pie?



Categories: Beverages, Books, Dessert, Desserts, Food and drink | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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