Comfort food: Trouble salad

Okay, it’s really macaroni salad and about as ubiquitous as can be, but there’s a story behind the title.

It was 1980. In Kansas City. In the summer.

The 1980 United States Heat Wave was a period of intense heat and drought that wreaked havoc on much of the Midwestern United States and Southern Plains throughout the summer of 1980. It is among the most devastating natural disasters in terms of deaths and destruction in U.S. history, claiming at least 1,700 lives[1] and because of the massive drought, agricultural damage reached US$20.0 billion (US$55.4 billion in 2007 dollars, adjusted for the GNP inflation index).[2] It is among the billion-dollar weather disasters listed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. […] In Kansas City, Missouri, the high temperature was below 90 only twice and soared above the century mark (100 °F/38 °C) for 17 days straight[…] [Wikipedia]

And we did not have air conditioning. No, we did not. But my grandmother, who lived about four blocks away, had a little window unit, so every afternoon, we would hie ourselves up there to sit in her living room for a while, then come home to sleep. If you can call it that. (Oh, and a little trivia: My room faced east, so I had the joy of the first blast of heat every morning.)

My mother would make dinner that we would bring to grandma’s while we sat in the cool. And one day she made this:

7 oz. dry pasta
1/2 c. Miracle Whip
1/2 c. sour cream
1 15-oz can drained sweet peas
1 c. diced ham
1 c. diced cheese
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. onion salt

Cook pasta while mixing Miracle Whip, sour cream, and spices. Stir in peas, meat, cheese, and pasta. Chill.

As you see, it involves a stove and boiling water. We three children (12, 6, and 4) were lined up at the door waiting for mom to bring the ginormous stoneware crock full of this so that we could go to grandma’s. Unfortunately, two steps from the front door, she tripped, dropped the bowl (which broke), and sprayed macaroni salad and clay shards everywhere.

My brother laughed.

He, um, got in trouble. (Turrble turrrrrrrrrrrble trouble.)

Hence the name. I don’t think my mother’s made this since and I have only a couple of times, but I love it and thus, the block party Saturday was graced with TWO dishes out of the Dude-and-Mojo household.

That’s what the fresh concrete in front of our beautiful porch says: Dude + Mojo = ?


Comfort food: Chicken rolls

Got a wild hare to be a real mom for a minute and a half, which involved preparing freezer meals of things I like but the TDs will not eat because it didn’t come from McDonald’s, Subway, or Sonic. What I have planned for the freezer are side dishes, not the entree, so for today’s entree, I made chicken rolls, which they didn’t like any better than they like anything else I make. Because I am not McDonald’s. (FYI: They went hungry.)

I have no real history with this dish to legitimately call it a “comfort food,” but goodness they were good!

6 crescent rolls (Pillsbury fridge type)
1 c chicken, diced
3 oz cream cheese
1 Tb lemon juice
1/2 c onion, chopped
3 Tb. soft butter
corn flake crumbs

Mix all ingredients but crumbs. Place mixture on a crescent roll. Roll up. Dip in melted butter and roll in corn flake crumbs. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.

Next time, I’m going to up the cream cheese and not cook them quite so long. I served it (heh, only to myself) with green rice, which recipe used to be a comfort food, but one I now have little taste for. I don’t know why.

Comfort food: Marinara sauce

I make this with different measurements all the time because A) it depends on what I have on hand; B) I never measure; and C) I can’t be arsed to write it down. This is how I made it today, and all measurements are approximate:

3 lb hamburger
1 diced yellow onion
1 T minced garlic (I use the stuff in the jars)
1/4 c basil (dried)
1/2 c oregano (dried)
1/2 c parsley (dried)

Fry all that up together, then drain off the grease.

5 4-oz cans mushroom pieces and stems (with water)
2 cans tomato sauce
5 cans tomato paste
water to make it the consistency you like

Mix all that up really well, let simmer for a while with the lid on it. On low, you could keep it on the stove all day if you wanted. The idea is to let the herbs steep. I’ll add more oregano* once I get it stirred up, as I like oregano. Lots.

Serve on whatever shaped of pasta (cooked) that you like.

If I have stewed tomatoes on hand, I’ll use those. If I have whole tomatoes on hand, I’ll blanch, peel, and use those. I don’t use olive oil because I think the beef provides all the oil necessary, and I’m not a fan of olive oil anyway.

As we all know, this is a heavy dish. When I’m low-carbing, I can have a bowl of it for breakfast (yes, I said breakfast) without the pasta (with parmesan) and I won’t have to think about eating again until bedtime. No matter how much I love it, though, I will never get over thinking it’s weird to eat it without the pasta.

It freezes well, and one of these days, if I ever get around to learning how to can, this is the first thing I’m going to can.

*Went to a Mexican restaurant where they loaded their salsa with oregano. WTF? I went for Mexican food, not Italian. A little was good. A lot was not better.

Comfort food: Christmas punch

I grew up with this being served only on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It was a magnificent treat. For the most part, I still keep that because, well, it’s loaded with sugar and, wow, I could drink a quart of it every day.

Anyway, I had it for my wedding reception and Dragon Lady told me later it was the best punch she’d ever had with another sweet (cake, etc.) because it didn’t clash and/or leave an aftertaste. Now, I don’t know how much that had to do with the punch as much as it had to do with the fact that I wanted vanilla and almond flavoring in my cake icing, but she loved it so much she got her niece to serve it at her wedding reception, where, apparently, it went just as well.

The secret is in the vanilla-and-almond combination.

10 cups water
1 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1 cup ReaLemon juice
2 cups  sugar
6 oz orange juice, thawed

Mix well.

Comfort food: Meatloaf

I have an “official” recipe that I kinda sorta follow sometimes if I feel like it, but usually I have way more hamburger than the amount called for in the official recipe (we buy one cow a year and have most of it, minus the excellent cuts [about which I am very specific] ground into hamburger). This is how I made it last night:

2-1/2 lb hamburger
1-1/2 c bread crumbs (combined my own dried/crumbled with boughten seasoned)
1 c milk
1/2 c yellow onion, chopped
2 eggs
2 T Worcestershire sauce (this is the key to a good meatloaf, IMO)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground sage

Mix all ingredients (knead it with your hands as you would bread dough) and put into a springform pan. Put on an aluminum-foil-lined cookie sheet. Cook at 350F for 1 hour.

Add ketchup as needed.

NOTE: For low-carb version, substitute bread crumbs with chopped mushrooms (not the kind from the can).

If you’re easily squicked about meat and the eating thereof, you may stop reading right here.

I love steak tartare. If you don’t know what that is, it’s raw ground sirloin with egg and capons and a bunch of spices in it. I eat this meatloaf raw once I get all the spices worked in and settled. Sometimes I’ll add a little extra Worcestershire sauce. Poor woman’s tartare.