Monday, August 17, 2009

Adventures at Jungle Jim's

Where can you find a fortune telling Einstein?
An Elvis-impersonating monkey/bear? A talking, robotic Robin Hood
and the very hairy comrade, Little John?
How about a giant,794 pound phallic cheese?
The answer? Jungle Jim's of course!
Where to start? Ok, I went on a road trip today with my mom and my brother. We trucked two and a half hours to Ohio for two specific places: IKEA and Jungle Jim's International Market. I got wind of the international market a couple of years ago and have wanted to check it out ever since. This 6.5 acre grocery store heaven did not let down. It is like a foodie's theme park, complete with tours and magic. Below are a few items that I found particularly cool.
Fruit, strange fruit! I wish I could have tried them all.
I'd never seen so many unknown-to-me fruit. I felt like I needed a fruit translator.
Baby pineapple! The cuteness is killing me. So THIS is what a water chestnut looks like outside of a can! They are beautiful.
I especially needed my bud, Natalie in the Asian candy isle. Nat, this one is for you.
Fish paste in a tube, anyone?
This is exactly what I need to be looking at while I'm eating my cereal in the morning: a big, brawny man in a kilt. Look at those Scottish muscles.
There was enough jam here to fill an Olympic swimming pool. There were so many flavors, too.
Here's some of my loot: udon noodles, an artichoke & tomato pasta sauce from Italy, whole wheat gnocchi made with sweet potatoes, a meat seasoning from Germany, a guava soda, a grapefruit soda, a pear infused balsamic vinegar, rye flour, graham flour, and (not pictured) raw, dark agave nectar. Hello food adventures!
I thought my excursion at Jungle Jim's was ending until I stumbled upon the cheese section, all divided by country. I got a smoked Gouda from the Netherlands, a Mexican string cheese, spreadable German-style Quark from Vermont, a muenster from Connecticut, and some crappy cheese curds from Wisconsin. They were pretty crappy. Not the usual squeaky, deliciousness of Wisconsin curds.
White pear, tiny red bananas, and a guava. I haven't eaten a guava since I was 11 or 12. It's going to be a good time.
These are my edible goods I scored from IKEA. Orange and Elderflower marmalade sounded interesting. They also had a gooseberry jam, but how much jam does one person need, really. I hope I can do the bread justice. Bread and I, we have a rocky relationship. I also had a tasty lingonberry frozen yogurt on my way out of the store. I was pleased.
Overall, it was an awesome day of sensory overload, emptying pockets, scoring loot, and lots of walking. I hope to repeat this extravaganza again soon!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good Ol' Corn Bread

Every year, my family and I go to the Indiana State Fair. We go to get the essentials: a funnel cake, pineapple whip ice cream, sugar coated German almonds, Indiana maple syrup, etc. When I'm there, I have to purchase some sort of flour from Sunny Slopes Farm. Last year I got some wheat bran, and this year freshly milled corn meal came home with me. I've had this corn bread recipe for over two years. It's one of a handful of recipes that Sunny Slopes Farm gives out every year. Today was the perfect time to whip some up from scratch.
I sampled and bought this Indiana sorghum to put into my real, old timey corn bread.
These are my eggs of choice. I get them at the Binford Farmers Market on Saturdays when I'm there with my load of cookies. Jonathan and Lucinda are good people.
The recipe says to turn the oven on to 400 degrees and put butter (it calls for shortening, but I don't believe in that junk.) in the cast iron skillet to melt while you get the other ingredients together. This doesn't mean dilly dally around - AKA taking photos for a blog - because when I pulled the pan out of the oven, I had some BLACK butter. It was not pretty. I had to do a dump and clean, then melt some more. Boo hiss, wasted precious butter. In went the sorghum molasses. I had never made corn bread with this traditional ingredient. I don't prefer it. Honey is my sweetener of choice.
I didn't like the assembly of ingredients on the recipe. Normally when you make corn bread, you would mix the dry ingredients together, then mix the wet ingredients, then add the dry to the wet. This would be my suggestion for you.
This was difficult to shoot. The skillet was dang HEAVY and a HOT. I burnt the palm of my hand during this stunt. The things I do for show business.
Returning it all to the piping hot skillet. Doesn't look appetizing, bare with me.
After about 17 minutes, it was all done. It had to wait a few hours until dinner time. Then came the slicing and honey drizzling.
That's how I like it. Warm and slathered with honey. Some prefer butter and some even molasses. However you take it, enjoy a chunk of corn bread soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Three Ways.

I do love a good grilled cheese sandwich. I also love to make unusual grilled cheese sandwiches. After seeing an episode of Ham on the Street a few years ago, I've been putting all kinds of preserves and jams on my grilled cheeses. The episode featured a sort of "Grilled Cheese Lotto." There were three rotating bingo-type barrels - all with slips of paper listing a variety of each category. The first barrel listed types of bread, the second listed types of cheeses, and the third held a list of preserves/jams/jellies. The hungry volunteers would stick their hands into each barrel to choose their grilled cheese combo. This is a fun game to play. I had a grilled cheese lotto party at my house once. It was delicious.
I got back on the grilled cheese sandwich kick this week and made a different one three days in a row.
This one is a pro biotic cheese, nectarine, and lingonberry preserve sandwich on Italian bread.
Here's my fancy panini/sandwich maker. It's a special edition. Only the best for me.
This yummy is a brie and blueberry jam sandwich on raisin bread.
I'd never heard of "frying cheese" before. It should be called "already fried cheese" because that's what it looks like. It is very tasty.
So I made a frying cheese and pumpkin butter sandwich on nutty whole wheat bread.
I suggest that you play the Grilled Cheese Lotto with a group of friends sometime. Have everyone bring either a bread, cheese, or jelly/jam/preserve. Cut each sandwich into quarters or eighths and have your guests taste them all. Look here to find a few combination suggestions. Have fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Tale of Warm Groats

Groats, you ask? "What the devil is a groat," I can hear you say. Listen and I will educate you about the wonderfulness of groats. But first I'm going to tell you a story...
Once upon a time, I was in Seattle, venturing out alone for the day. I started off on the wrong foot by locking myself out of my friend's house and then missing the bus. I am not accustomed to city buses or bus schedules and such, being from a small town. So I sat on the curb and cried as it rained, like it does 80% of the time in Seattle. A little Asian man, who couldn’t speak a lick of English, stopped and spoke to me. I think he was saying comforting words, but after a minute, he went on his way. I decided to stop being a total wuss and walked to my destination: the Pike Place Market – a foodie’s playground.

When I finally got to the market, I was in much need of comforting. The clouds parted and the sun shone a beam of light on a little café called The Crumpet Shop. This was the definition of my kind of place. (Though I curse them for not having a website.)

I went inside and scoured the menu, making sure not to miss a single thing. A bowl of groats was an item on the breakfast list. The person in front of me in line ordered this strange food and having a curious tongue, I had to have some too. The girl behind the counter asked me what kind of milk I wanted, sweetened with brown sugar or honey, with or without dried black currants. (I didn’t know what currants were at the time, so I had to ask. I’ve since been a huge fan.)
I sat down with my warm, sloshy bowl and pretended to read a newspaper so as not to look lonely or without purpose. Although I was, indeed, lonely. This bowl of groats was comfort food like I had never tasted before. It washed away all of my homesickness and the chill from the Seattle rain. I longed to share this experience with friends and family back home, so I bought some uncooked groats to take with me. You can find groats in most natural food stores like Wild Oats, the Downtown Farm Stand, etc. I did not know this, or I wouldn't have walked around the market all day lugging a few extra pounds of groats.

Ok now, groats are “the hulled grains of various cereals, such as oats, wheat, barley, or buckwheat.” Thanks Wikipedia. They are basically uncut, unground, and not rolled like the grains we are used to. The groats that I received at The Crumpet Shop were oat groats. (ha, rhymes.)Back home I replicated this dish to the best of my ability. Here’s how I do it.
Ingredients: 1 cup of groats - Whichever type you find. I’m partial to the oat groats, 5 cups of water, pinch of salt, hot milk – steamed would be best, but I don’t have a steamer, sweetener of choice – I like the brown sugar, and some black currants – I don’t have any on hand right now, so I’m using dried blueberries.
Directions:Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add salt and groats.

Simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes. (I never said that this was quick.)

Drain off liquid. I save my liquid to make bread from it. (The extra starch in the water feeds the yeast and makes them happy, in turn giving me happy bread.)
If you are only making this for one person, dish out a 1/2 cup or so of the cooked groats, and put the rest in the fridge. I do this all the time. It stays fresh for 3-4 days. You can save time by preparing the groats ahead to reheat and serve later.

Heat up 1 cup of milk for a single serving and add in your sweetener of choice. I like 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of honey.

I used the same pot from earlier. Sue me.

I like my groats just barely poking through the milk in my bowl. Garnish with some dried fruit. I’m telling you, The Crumpet Shop had it right with the black currants.

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It makes about 3 servings. It’s delicious and so good for you. Enjoy!

*Note* Bringing back another blog post. I liked this one, too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Making noodles with Mom

This will be my last reposted blog entry. I wrote this one in February:

I helped my mom make her homemade noodles today. The recipe is from her 1974 Betty Crocker Cookbook.
It's awesomely vintage.
I took a photo of the recipe. See the bottom of the blog for an easier to read version.
She made the dough in her food processor. I'm not sure if she prefers mixing by hand or not. This was her first try in the food processor. Looks good to me.
Brother caught us in the act and stole my camera.
Rolling out and rolling over.
Thank goodness for electric knives.
Dump in a bowl...
...and toss in some flour. This is Mom's favorite part.
And it would be appropriate to have an after photo, when the pasta is cooked. I was too concerned with eating them. Mmmmm. This is the taste of home.
Homemade Egg Noodles a la Betty Crocker circa 1974
-2 cups all purpose flour
-3 egg yolks
-1 egg
-2 teaspoons salt
-1/4 to 1/2 cup water
Measure flour into bowl, make well in center and add egg yolks, egg, and salt. With hands thoroughly mix egg into flour. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, mix thoroughly after each addition. (Add only enough water to form dough into a ball.)
Turn dough onto well-floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic - about 10 minutes. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Divide dough into four equal parts. Roll dough one part at a time, into paper thin rectangle, keeping remaining dough covered. Roll dough around rolling pin and slip out rolling pin. (Mom uses the flour and fold over method.)
Cut dough crosswise into 1/4 inch strips for wide noodles. Shake out strips and place on towel to dry - about two hours. (We skip this step all together. We plop them straight into water. They turn out thick and dumpling-esque. We like it that way.)
When dry, break dry strips into smaller pieces. Cook in three quarts of boiling salted water (one Tablespoon of salt) 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly.
Makes about 6 cups/10 ounces.