Cooking and Gadgets

sweet_cornbread.jpgIf you think dry and crumbly when you hear cornbread, you're not alone. That's exactly what I used to think. I remember the square cake pan of cornbread my mom used to make. It was so dry, I could hardly speak as I tried to swallow the sticky crumbs.

After much experimenting, I came up with a recipe that is moist with a much finer texture than most cornbread. The batter includes 1 cup of oil. Several years ago I used vegetable oil. As I became a bit more health conscious, I began using canola oil. Now I use walnut oil. Clearly one of the most healthful oils, it is a great source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Its mild, neutral flavor makes it perfect for using as fat in baked goods. It's a bit more expensive than canola oil, but so worth it for the health benefits it delivers. It can sometimes be found near the the other cooking oils in the grocery store. I find it at my local natural food co-op and the natural food section of the local grocery stores.

Another way to kick-up the nutritional benefits of this bread is to use whole white wheat flour. This flour, which has all the nutrition and fiber of standard whole-wheat flour but with a lighter color and milder, sweet flavor, is milled from a hard white winter wheat berry, rather than the hard red spring wheat berry of traditional whole-wheat flours.

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death-in-four-coursesotherwomanWhen two of my dearest friends were launching new novels -- Hank Phillippi Ryan ("The Other Woman") and Lucy Burdette ("Death in Four Courses") -- I wanted to throw the best bash ever to celebrate.

Before I knew it I had a crowd of about 80 people coming to wish the authors well and pick up signed copies of the books.

The challenge -- after figuring out where to put everyone -- was to offer up delicious finger food and drinks without breaking the bank, and doing it in a way that I could manage myself with the help of a few stalwart friends at the party.

I kept telling myself: Keep it simple, affordable, and delicious!

The solution: An antipasto table

  • Platters of meats and cheeses cut into bite sized pieces
  • Platters of grilled marinated vegetables.
  • A big basket of sliced french bread
  • Two kinds of crostini -- thin slices of barbecued steak on horseradish cream with arugula; and basil-flavored goat cheese with roasted red peppers -- assembled in advance.
  • Lots of cookies, baked that day.
  • Prosecco and sparkling water, augmented with whatever guests are generous enough to bring.
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grilling.jpgYup, it’s time to drag out the ol’ grill and have the gang on over for an end of summer, big bash barbecue.  Labor Day’s the perfect name for that holiday, because we’ll be laboring off what’s left of our arses to prepare for it.

Time for us to tidy the yard of all dying blossom debris, clean the lounges of bird generosities, and hose off the cobwebs on the hammock, evidence of us forgetting to relax and just swing this summer.

Then, gotta get at that gook, the residue of barbecue that didn’t burn off from the Memorial Day or Barack’s-near-our-Block party, remove those flakes of festivities that have clogged neath the jets.  Read Real Simple for cleaning secrets. Have to ask hubby to get on all this, plus disconnect the old propane tank and lug it out to the car then get a new propane tank just in case we run out in the thick of the festivities. ….Wait!  I don’t have a husband.  I am the husband.

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arturo.jpgI think I'm taking this cooking business a little more seriously than I thought I would.  You may not actually call it cooking.  It's more Sandra Lee than, say, Ina Garten.  But I think I am truly more Sandra Lee than Ina Garten.  In the days when my kids were actually kids, I got a meal on the table every night.  Sometimes I did a complicated dish, but mainly it was throw together.  And they loved it.  To this day, when asked, any of the three of them will point to my tuna casserole as the finest of meals.

Noodles, canned tuna, canned peas, parmesan cheese, buttered dish. Who couldn't turn that baby out.  In my present circumstance, cooking for one but cooking lots of it for "later", kind of rules out the fabled tuna casserole.  So I'm turning to some of the other family favorite standbys, that actually also involve cans.

Did you know, for example, that a truly delicious way to make sweet and sour meatballs involves simmering a can of  Sauce Arturo with a can of whole cranberry sauce and then dropping meatballs of your liking in, and cooking, is foolproof.  If only there were canned rice.

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beachshore.jpg One of the delights of living in the Pacific Palisades is being able to take daily walks along the beach. The walks are great for exercise but also to enjoy the way the beach, ocean, and sky look in the early morning. I have to admit that I would never have discovered the pleasures of walking on the beach had it not been for my wife. For Michelle taking a walk is as necessary as breathing. I think she learned the benefits of walking from her mom, Helen. Whenever we visit her parents in New Jersey, she and her mom head to the boardwalk to take a long walk. This is their way of catching up and clearing their minds before the day begins.

This morning we walked with our friends Janet, Kelly, and Annette. We hadn't seen Kelly for a month because she and her family had been in Europe. She told us that one of the high points of the trip was a crème brûlée she'd eaten in Paris. That dessert was so delicious she couldn't stop thinking about its perfect crust and flavorful custard.

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