Tuesday, January 31, 2012


In the early eighteenth century, one year before George Washington was born; fifteen families from the Spanish Canary Islands immigrated to what is now known as the city of San Antonio in the then Spanish province of Tejas. Many decades before English- speaking peoples arrived, Spain had encouraged these Islenos (Islanders) to develop more Spanish presence west of Louisiana so as to deter further French westward expansion. Historians note that the Islenos made a spicy “Spanish” stew that is similar to chili.

By the 1880’s, as the Texas cattle drives were winding down, Latin women in colourful attire sold a stew they called “chili con carne” made from dried red chilies and beef . These ladies were famously known as “Chili Queens” and they sold chili con carne (nowadays simply called chili), in the market centre. These Chili Queens adorned their wagons with bright lanterns and operated in San Antonio until the 1930’s.

At the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, a San Antonio chili stand was on display, further popularizing Chili.
“Chili parlors” also sprang up, even outside of Texas, in the early 1900’s. An Illinois chili parlour advertised it’s product as “Mexican Chili”, amusing because Chili is strictly a southwest American concoction.
Serious Chili devotees insist that chili should not contain beans. And actually, original chili didn’t contain tomatoes either. Beans probably were used as a meat extender at first and then people came to like their inclusion, but Texas-style chili is beanless.

Here is an authentic old Texas-style Chili recipe. Adapted from Jane Butel.’s Southwest Cooking.

Ingredients                                                     serves 8 or more
3 lbs lean beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 ounces of rendered beef kidney suet (Absolutely great flavour, but you can substitute with lard or butter)
4 hot chili peppers, chopped (spicy, use less if desired)
Water to cover
1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, powdered cumin, salt and red pepper
3 tablespoons powdered Ancho chili pepper (take dry ancho peppers and grind in coffee mill)
2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 teaspoons masa harina (Mexican corn flour, not cornstarch), or cornmeal or wheat flour


  • Melt the suet in a Dutch oven
  • Sear the beef all over
  • Add the chili peppers, stir and cover with water
  • Simmer for thirty minutes
  • Add the spices, ancho chili and garlic bring to boil
  • Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes
  • Add the masa and simmer for another thirty minutes
  • Taste for salt and seasoning and adjust as desired

You can and should refrigerate the chili and later skim off any excessive grease. The chili will taste better when served the next day.

There is an annual chili cook-off  held in Terlingua, Texas. There you can find a myriad of different chilis, some made with beer, chocolate or coffee, and all manner of ingredients. A few years ago, one fellow won the cook-off but was disqualified after officials discovered he had mixed a batch of samples from a half-dozen contestants and offered it up as his own entry.

Some historians believe that chili began as trail food.  Others disagree. Chuck wagon cooks might or might not have used dried Chile peppers as a spicing if they were available. One thing is for sure – Chili is definitely good groceries. And today there is a chili variation for everybody, even vegetarians.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


If you’ve ever visited the Lone Star State, you may be aware of its unique and fascinating history, which dates back at least to 1860’s cattle drives, where vast numbers were driven 10 to 15 miles a day overland from 25 to 100 days, depending on the weather.

Southern US cattle production was devastated by the civil war, but Texas longhorn cattle was unaffected. There were packing houses in Kansas and so trail drives were organized to deliver beef there.

Cattle herds tend to move in single file on the trail, strung out in a long line.  1,000 head could range two miles in length. Millions of longhorn cattle were driven along the famous Chisholm Trail, named after Jesse Chisholm, who blazed the trail in 1865. It ran from the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas across the Red River continuing north to Abilene, Kansas.  Chisholm traded with the U.S. Army and Native American tribes.

A dozen men were used to drive a herd of 3,000.  These drovers, called cowboys, worked in pairs, one on either side of the cattle. The best cowboys would work near the front helping to steer the herd, the remainder working further back, spaced out to the end. They communicated by hand signals or gestures with their hats. Also in the group was a Wrangler who managed the herd of spare horses, usually eight horses for each cowboy. The horses would be rotated so each animal could rest. If a thunderstorm broke out, particularly lightening, the cattle would stampede and the wrangler and cowboys would have to frantically round the cattle up, sometimes taking twelve hours.

By 1871, as many as 5,000 cowboys were paid off in a single day.  Between 1867 and 1872 alone, over three million head of cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Abilene.

A central fixture of the drive was the Chuck Wagon.  Rancher Charles Goodnight invented this concept in 1866, believing more acceptable meals would ease the difficulty of procuring competent labour. The chuckwagon, sometimes drawn by oxen, but usually by mules, carried food, utensils and a water barrel, as well as  tools and the crew's bed rolls. A fold-out counter in the rear was used for the food preparation. There were compartments for foodstuffs.

That modified wagon was built by the Studebaker brothers, who since 1852 produced wagons for farmers, miners and the military. Their sturdy wagons had steel axles to withstand trail drives. Studebaker expanded wagon production during the California gold rush, and further during the cattle- drive period.( In the 20th century, the company evolved into an innovative automobile company, producing cars, trucks and busses until 1966).

Since 17th century England, the term “chuck” has referred to meat or food in general. Part of a beef shoulder  is also called chuck.
Chuckwagon food always included sourdough breads and biscuits. A.big cast-iron Dutch oven with legs, and a flat, rimmed cover was used over hot coals. Biscuits could be literally baked in this oven. More coals could be placed on the cover providing bottom and top heat. The cook prepared meat, biscuits, dried fruit and coffee for breakfast and braised beef or stews, potatoes, beans, bread (risen from the sourdough starter) or biscuits and coffee for dinner. The cook, usually an older man ,was second in authority on drives.

The era of cattle drives only lasted two decades, from the end of the Civil War to the mid 1880’s. During that time 10 million cows walked from Texas to Kansas and Missouri.

Reasons for the decline of the cattle drives were newly invented barbed wire and the invention of the refrigerated railroad car by Gustavus Swift. The final blow to cattle drives were major blizzards in the midwest in the 1880’s whch killed millions of cattle in the feeder lots.
The heyday of the long drives is probably the most coulorful in western American history. Today The American Chuckwagon Association exists, an organisation dedicated to preserving the heritage of the chuckwagon. Their members have cook-off competitions all over the USA and through these events, members educate the public on the history and tradition of the chuckwagon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Recently we bought several tins of the tasty mollusk, crabmeat and enjoyed it with creamy eggs. Today, I am combining some crabmeat with canned cream corn to make a delectable soup. Over a million tons of crabmeat are eaten annually and we are doing our part. We always have canned cream corn in the pantry for outdoor cookouts and it makes this soup an enthralling, taste-bud satisfying delight.

Crabmeat is very versatile and for soups one can make chowder or a cream soup. I particularly like an oriental recipe I found a few years ago because it is loaded with flavour. If you like crabmeat you will like this creamy Asian soup.

This dish is adapted from Ellen Dong’s recipe in the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Cookbook, Augusta, Georgia.

Crabmeat-Corn Soup                                        serves 4


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 green onions (scallions) chopped finely
1 tablespoon minced gingerroot

2- 6 ounce each cans of crabmeat*
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 cups of seafood stock or broth. Chicken stock/broth is okay also. **
1- 15 ounce can of creamed corn

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of oil

White pepper and oriental sesame oil to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan
  2. Add the scallions and gingerroot
  3. Add the crabmeat, salt and sherry
  4. Add the stock and bring to boiling
  5. Add the creamed corn and stir thoroughly
  6. When the mixture returns to boiling add the cornstarch slurry
  7. Turn off the heat
  8. Drizzle in  the eggs while stirring
  9. Add white pepper and sesame oil to taste and serve

* If your purse allows, add some chunkiness with a little fresh lump crabmeat.

** I have a jar of lobster base in my pantry. One time I had no seafood stock (such as shrimp broth from shells) so I used chicken stock with a teaspoon of the lobster base. It was delightful but chicken stock alone is fine.

We are very keen on this soup for its preparation simplicity. It is intriguingly delicious in flavour and has an alluring aroma.  Please don’t serve this sumptuous soup to too many diners at once because all the Mmmm-ing around the table may be a distraction.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Certain food combinations go together well, like in the Far East for example, where scrambled eggs with crabmeat are very popular.  I make scrambled eggs with crabmeat and the crowd goes wild, it is that good. Bacon and eggs are popular, but they who have eaten scrambled eggs with crabmeat praise that luscious dish. Gently scrambled eggs with crabmeat are a beautiful marriage of two subtle tastes. The soft texture of crabmeat with creamy eggs leads to a magnificent, flavourful taste sensation.

I was certainly reminded of this succulent seafood situation in the supermarket recently. On aisle 3, I usually buy a couple tins of brislings while my BW (the Education Tipster) gets some canned albacore. In the same area there was a can of crabmeat, similarly sized as the albacore. So we bought it to add to our scrambled eggs.

I know that fresh lump crabmeat is a quality food, but since we already like canned albacore why not give canned crabmeat a try? We loved it.

Get hold of some crabmeat and make eggs with it. It’s good groceries for sure, and not at all difficult. One important thing – avoid high heat when you cook this.

Scrambled Eggs with Crabmeat                                           serves 4


8 eggs
2 cans of crabmeat (6 ounces each)

3 green onions (scallions) chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (black is okay but white looks nicer)
3 drops of oriental sesame oil

¼ cup vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon salt

A dash of either oriental oyster sauce or soy sauce


  • Open crabmeats and put into a mixing bowl. Take a fork and lightly break up any oversize lumps.
  • Crack open the eggs into the bowl. Put in the next four ingredients.
  • Take one teaspoon of the ¼ cup of oil and add it to the egg mixture.
  • Break up the egg yolks and gently stir so as not to make the crabmeat too fine.

  • Heat a dry wok or skillet until hot.

  • When the pan is hot, make sure the flame is no longer high.
  • Add the remaining oil and the salt.
  • With the flame low, pour in the mixture. It should not sizzle.
  • Wait a few moments until you see the edges begin to get firm.
  • Now gently stir from edges to get eggs to run under.
  • Keep stirring thusly until entire mixture is cooked.

Serve right from the pan with the soy or oyster sauce added by diners as they choose.

Try this lovely, flavorsome, rapidly-made meal with the canned crabmeat or if you prefer, the fresh. Many consider crabmeat on a par with lobster. See what you think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Experiencing frosty, blustery weather recently, I make a pleasing winter soup that always satisfies the call for warming solace after coming in from outdoors. We always appreciate a bracing winter soup on bitter cold days and so I wanted to share it. I don’t think anything could be finer than a bowl of this delightful stick-to-your-ribs soup with perhaps a crisp, crusty bread to chase that grey chill away. Serve a large bowl of this soup and enjoy the cordial taste of healthy vegetables and legumes that offers a welcome restorative comfort. This winter soup is so discerningly hospitable that you could revive yourself with a lunchtime bowl and have it again as a meal starter for supper.

I’m talking about the hearty, wonderful Bean and Vegetable Soup. Let’s make some and replace that bleak grimace with a smile.

Bean and Vegetable Winter Soup               serves 4


  • 4 medium carrots, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped finely (celery leaves are very good too)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

  • 2 cups diced cooked ham or smoked sausage, such as kielbasa (optionally, you could omit and substitute 1 cup of edamame for protein)
  • 3 cups of white beans, such as cannellini, Michigan whites or great northern beans (1/2 pound dried beans soaked overnight or two -15 ounce cans thoroughly rinsed and drained)
  • 3 cups (1 pound) small red or white potatoes (not russet or baking) peeled and cut into medium chunks
  • 1 quart of stock or broth (vegetable or chicken)

  • 1 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt plus black pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped


  • In a suitably sized pot, fry the first three ingredients in butter (a mirepoix) until tender, stirring constantly
  • Add in the garlic and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.

  • If using ham or sausage, add it and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the stock, the beans and the potatoes and stir well
  • Add everything else except the parsley, cover and simmer 30 minutes
  • Check that beans, potatoes and carrots are tender, cook longer if required
  • Check for seasonings, adjust accordingly

When the soup is ready, you may want to put a ladle or so into an electric blender and cream it. Then add back to pot.

Serve in sturdy bowls and sprinkle parsley atop soup. You may also sprinkle on some grated parmesan cheese if you like.

This is a nice gratifying soup to long for on a frosty day.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012


If you’ve enjoyed that luscious dessert - crepes Suzette, (see here), how about a less flamboyant but more “filling” crepe dish that is beloved in many eastern European cultures for its deliciousness?  I’m talking about blintzes.

Similar to the Polish nalesniki, Russian blini or German pfannkuchen, blintzes are a precious, aromatic dish that makes for a good breakfast, brunch or almost- anytime snack.   Sometimes in the wintertime when we were schoolchildren, my mom served us some blintzes when we got home from school and we devoured them gleefully in the warm kitchen.

After you make crepes once or twice, it will become second nature to you. The most important caveat is to let the batter rest in your icebox before you make the crepes.

Cheese Blintzes                                         serves six

Ingredients for the blintzes

2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of milk
¾ cup sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt

Put all in a bowl and beat until very smooth or in an electric blender and blend well.
Chill for 30-60 minutes. The batter should be like heavy cream, if too thick add water to adjust it.

  • To make the blintzes, use a teaspoon of butter to fry each blintz
  • Melt one teaspoon of butter in a 7 or 8 inch skillet over medium heat
  • Pour in one tablespoon of the batter, turning the pan to completely cover the bottom
  • Fry until slightly browned on one side only, don’t cook other side at all
  • Stack the blintzes browned side up until batter is depleted, adding additional butter if necessary

Cheese filling for blintzes

4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces small curd cottage cheese
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the filling ingredients in a bowl until smooth

Prepare the filled blintzes

  • Place a tablespoon of filling on each blintz
  • Turn two opposites sides in and roll carefully to seal in the filling
  • Melt butter in the skillet and fry blintzes, starting on seam, until browned on both sides

Various toppings go well with these blintzes. Sour cream and a little sugar is a most basic topping.  Toppings I like are cherry or blueberry sauce. They go well on many desserts, i.e. French toast, pound cake and  many others.

Blueberry sauce

½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup of water
¼ cup light corn syrup OR - 1/8 cup honey plus 1/8 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups of blueberries, fresh or frozen (or pitted cherries if you prefer)

  • Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan and mix.
  • Stir in the water, corn syrup and lemon juice until smooth
  • Stir in the blueberries and place on stove, Cook, stirring until the sauce comes to a boil and becomes thickened
  • If not using right away, refrigerate in the icebox until needed

Have yourself some cheese blintzes, these groceries will make you happy. You will really love the taste and texture of blintzes and they are, if you follow these steps, fail-proof to make.


Monday, January 2, 2012


Juicing regularly, we travel to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia every couple of weeks because there is a mammoth vegetable market there.  They have a gigantic selection, including bitter melon, which is reputed to be good for controlling elevated blood sugar.

This suburb is rich with ethnic diversity. Along the road we spot Korean, Chinese and Pakistani signs to name just a few.

We route this trip to coincide with a tutoring assignment, but the client cancels; so we have extra time and after loading the vegetables in our vehicle we decide to get some lunch.

We visit a Chinese restaurant in the neighbourhood and are the only Non-Orientals in the place. A group of men at a round table are speaking Chinese and eating noodles with chopsticks. You have to specifically request a table fork.

The walls are adorned with Chinese characters mixed with English translations. They have fish head soup, ox tail noodle soup, duck feet hot pot, duck tongue and foods I have never encountered before.

There is a wide selection of dim sum. We order some pork and shrimp dumplings, mongolian beef and sesame chicken. Everything is fine but I am impressed with the mongolian beef. Thin slices of beef with onion shreds and finger length pieces of bright green scallions in a sweet sauce flavoured with hoisin sauce. It is so good that my BW, the Education Tipster, insists I make it at home. And its notability demands such.

Since this dish is so deceptively easy to prepare, yet tantalizingly delicious; I get the groceries and make it, and we love it. If you’ve never tried this Chinese dish, I humbly recommend it, for its ease of preparation and wonderful taste. Here is how to prepare it.

Mongolian Beef                                Serves two


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of thinly sliced beef (top round, chuck or flank steak). Slice on the bias and pound with a mallet to increase thinness, and then cut into bite size slices.

8 green onions (scallions, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 small or medium onion, sliced into slivers
1 carrot shredded broadly

Make a marinade of:
1 teaspoon of Oriental sesame oil
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white
Combine all and add the beef, stir well to coat thoroughly and let sit for 30 minutes

Make a sauce of:
1 teaspoon minced gingerroot
3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce (Chinese condiment)
2-3 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or sherry, marsala or Scotch whisky)
¼ teaspoon Oriental chile paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine everything and set aside


Heat skillet or wok hot and add the oil. As it begins to smoke, add the beef and stir to separate. Working rapidly, make a well in the centre and add the green onions, white onion slivers, carrot shreds and the garlic. Stir well.

Stir and add the sauce mixture to the skillet.
When the sauce comes to boiling stir, shut off the flame, stir for a few moments and serve with steamed rice.

That’s it. Enjoy Mongolian Beef soon, you’ll want it often.

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