Finger Lickin’ Good!

Michael of Smoke & Mirrors has tagged me on a food meme. Imagine that, me and food – who’d a thunk? The deal is that I am supposed to list five of my fav eateries here in my neck of the woods, then I tag five more bloggers to do the same. So here goes:

Pink’s Hotdogs: Pink’s has been around forever in a day. Once you see the place, you definitely envision starlets and wannabe’s of the 1930’s & 1940’s standing around eating their dogs and sipping their creme soda. It’s clearly a Hollywood favorite, as evidenced by all the signed 8×10 glossies of Hollywood luminaries, that cover the walls inside the tiny dining area. But oh, my, God…they have the best chili dogs on the planet. And there is nothing quite so fun as running down there at midnight to stand on line to get a couple of these greasy, ooey, gooey, chili, onions,cheese dogs. 100% kosher beef dogs, on perfect squishy white buns, served by zophtic maidens. Get a Dr. Bonner’s Creme Soda to go with and you are set.

Barney’s: Barney’s is a fixture in Pasadena’s Old Town and has been there for quite a while. It’s a morph of an old-time saloon and a yuppie cafe. The food is good, hearty and reasonably priced, especially for its locale. My all time favorite dish is their toast-taco-salad. An enormous dish of fresh greens, topped with taco meat, shredded cheese, onions, sour creme and freshly made corn chips. Enough to feed three people unless you’re feeling really piggy. It’s served with a boatload of fresh salsa and vinegarette. Their potato salad is perfect. Burgers, great. Also have a mean kielbasa samich served with sourkraut on a big bakery bun. Have it with a diet coke, coffee or any one of the millions of brands of beers they serve. Afterwards, go for a stroll through Old Town, look in the shops, stop at the movies or just mill with the rest of the crowd.

Al Read’s: Al Read’s is a little hole in the wall place a mere 1/4 mile from my house. It sits on a corner across from a liquor store and a grocery store. Nothing remarkable about the little white building it is housed in but wait til you go inside. The decor is early 1970’s with white walls and red vinyl booths. To your right a tiny bar that is always rocking and to your left the dining room. You slide into one of the booths, and are given a giant red menu to peruse. Steak, seafood and ribs. Man oh man, the ribs. The sauce is to die for and I’ve yet to wheedle the recipe out of any of them. My two favorite dishes: Fried clams – can’t get enough of them. And the prime rib – unbelievably huge (covers most of the plate) served with twice baked potatoes and hot cheesebread – for under $20. A-yup, that’s what I said. You can go in your sweats or your fancy duds, makes no difference to them. The food is to die for and the service is friendly, casual and you never feel like they are just waiting for you to leave. It’s like going to your Aunt Edna’s for dinner but the service is better and so is the food.

Da Franco’s: Da Franco’s is the classic neighborhood Italian restaurant. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid there were always the family style neighborhood Eye-talian places that we would go to and gorge until we couldn’t move – and still have tons of leftovers to take home. That’s this place. Alfredo that is light, creamy, perfect. Marinara, home-made and garden fresh. They also have this chicken dish that is layer with cheese, ham and eggplant that is amazing and in ‘pink sauce’ – no idea what that is, but it melts in your mouth. Again, another casual, easy going place that serves the hell out of you. Oh and the cannolis can’t be beat. One other thing that I love, is that they serve you a basket of fresh soft bread sticks with marinara on the side, the minute your fanny hits the seat.

The Elephant Bar: The Elephant Bar is a cool kind of yuppy place in the heart of Burbank. The walls are painted in leopard print and zebra stripes, the waiters and waitresses likely all actors and actresses looking for their big break. They have a nice patio that faces the mountains and you can sip your iced tea or passion fruit iced tea as you watch the sun go down. Don’t worry about getting cold because they have those great big patio heaters that they will light on request. Everything on the menu is delicious. Everything. And the chef will alter dishes to your specs if you’re on a diet or want to swap one item out for another. They have everything from fried calamari, chinese chicken salad to pot roast. The portions are huge, you will be taking home leftovers. My favorite dish is the pot roast. Fork tender, in a perfect brown sauce that just melts in your mouth. Make sure to top it off with a huge slab of Chocolate Blackout Cake. And then call the paramedics, because you’ll have passed out by then.

And any time y’all want to come out to sunny California, I’d be pleased as punch to take you to any of these places.

Okay, that’s my five. Now, on with the tags…who shall it be??????

Jess
Christine
Ham
Puddlehead
MsCrankypants

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I Love Me Some Thin Mints! Don’t You?

I don’t know about you but every year right about this time I start to get a little excited. Not because Spring is right around the corner or because a cute guy has moved in to the house across the street but because the cookies of all cookies are about to go on sale.

Yep – I am a girl scout cookie junkie. I just can’t help myself. If there is even one thin mint within a 20 mile radius I can smell it, hunt it down and take it for my own. Since I don’t even smoke any more I figure I am entitled to just this one little obsession.

Also too there is just something sweet and nostailgic about them. They have been around since I can remember and I can remember pretty far back. Always somewhere around spring break you would start to see little cardboard table and folding chair sales stands cropping up – in front of super markets, laundramats, banks and even street corners in some suburban neighborhoods. Naturally when I was a kid I knew many of the salesgirls 😉 now, not so much.

However, I do have one little friend who is probably one of my favorite cookie sellers:  

Let’s call her Cookie-Girl – she does a bang up job, according to her mom and troop mama. But I mean who has to be told, check out that stand, nice display, clean, neat with lots of variety but no clutter. Poifect.

What many of you may not know is that there is a whole lot more to selling girl scout cookies than meets the eye. In the words of my favorite Girl Scout Mama:

Cookie sales gets so much negative crap that people don’t see the good it does. On the money side, it funds the whole Girl Scout program and it helps troops earn money for their activities. (camping, horseback riding, community service projects [one troop paid their way to Build A Bear to stuff and dress bears then donated them to the Fire Department to give to kids that needed them])

On the “Where Girls Grow Strong” side of it (a Girl Scout saying) cookie sales gives girls a chance to learn so much in a safe environment. Sales, money handling, responsibility, people skills, persistence, goal setting, etc. When it’s all over, they have such a sense of achievement! You can see the change in them. They’ve grown!

Also, especially in recent years, there are many troops who are selling cookies in order to send them to the troops. The way it works is this: you buy a box of cookies and instead of taking them home and eating them and making your thighs and butt even bigger, you tell the troop to go ahead and send them to the troops overseas. In addition to this, the kids take a lot of the money they make and send additional cookies to the troops. For example there is a relatively well known program called Operation Cookie Drop, which is a program started by Girls Scouts who managed to send bagillions of cookies to our young men and women in Iraq and gave them a  taste of home.

If you see a local troop selling in your area, ask them what their ’cause’ or program is that they are selling for – I’m sure you’ll discover that they are not in it for a beach chair or so they can all go to Chuck E. Cheeese for a weekend. They are going to do something special with the money for someone who needs it, senior citizen homes, the troops overseas, underprivilidged children and so forth.

So the next time you see that little cardboard table and chairs set up, don’t hide your face and mumble something about being on a diet. Chat with the girls and find out what they intend to do with their proceeds. And don’t be so darn stingy, give them a five-spot and tell them to give a box of cookies to their favorite shut in, kid stuck in a hospital, or a kid in a uniform overseas and far far away from home.

If you want to know when the cookies are going on sale in your area you can go here – type in your zip code and councils in your area should come up, with their schedules of sales.

Heck there is even a myspace girlscout page here.

So for pete’s sake, get some Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas, Trefoils or even som DoSiDos and know that you are likely contributing to something worthy and worthwhile. Heck if you are really worried about your diet they even sell some fudgy sugar free numbers AND all the cookies have Zero trans fats. So let’s not sweat the small stuff, otay.

For pictures, descriptions and nutritional information about the cookies go here

Also, if you just want to help and contribute to a troop who is sending cookies to the troops, I personally know of such a troop and I’d be happy to hook you up with them. If so, feel free to email me.

Okay, let’s get our fat asses down there and be loading up on the damn finest cookies ever made in America. Sound good? 😉

WC

God, I Love Junk Food!

Sometimes some people get it just right. And here’s a special that really says special, doncha think? I laughed my ass off on this one.

WC

Twinkies, Anyone?

When I was a kid, I loved Twinkies. In fact, I still do. There is no other highly processed, prepackaged lump of sugar and starch that I love more. In fact, as processed, prepackaged lumps of sugar and starch go, Hostess just can’t be beaten. They are the king of the heap in this department.

Now as time wore on, after my childhood Twinkies became evil things – things that would make you kill another human being, for example. Hence the Twinkie Defense. Of course it could only have happened in California and San Francisco, as the rest of the world just isn’t that stupid.

Also the word Twinkie is sometimes used as a term to objectify women who are overly sexual and not too bright. Like we need another one of those.

But despite all the abuse the poor Twinkie has gotten over the years, it is still one of America’s favorite junk foods. So imagine my awe and surprise when I discovered that there are many things one can do with a Twinkie to make really cool deserts. There is actually a twinkie desert recipe page. Can you believe it? Below is my favorite recipe – but you can find many more here .

So enjoy your weekend and make a delicious Twinkie desert for your family which you can enjoy while watching a Sunday night video. Cheers!

Twinkie-misu
By Larry Coons

Items Needed:

Box Hostess Twinkies
1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled & sweetened
1/4 cup Kahlua (optional)
1/2 gallon coffee or coffee & chocolate ice cream
Chocolate shavings or sprinkles

DIRECTIONS: Slice Twinkies in half lengthwise. Spray 9 x 5 loaf pan with cooking spray. Put five Twinkie halves, cream side up, side by side in pan. Mix coffee and Kahlua (optional); with pastry brush, apply liberally to cut side of Twinkies. Spoon about a 1/2 inch layer of softened ice cream over Twinkies. Repeat until you have used enough Twinkies & ice cream to fill the loaf pan. Cover tightly with foil and freeze several hours or overnight. This can be served from the pan in slices or unmolded, garnished with the chocolate and served. Serves about 10.

That Cat!

Okay, she looks like my cat – and has the appetite of my cat – but my cat can’t do that! It would come it very handy in the morning and at night, let me tell you. Nothing more annoying than a whiney, bitchy cat who wants to eat.

WC

Ole! Soup, Anyone?

(HT to Gerry for this recipe – rumor has it that it is yummy and comes from his sister. WC )


TACO SOUP
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 15-ounce can cream-style corn
Brown beef with onions in a medium-size soup pot.  Drain excess grease.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
I’d add that you could serve it with fresh taco chips or TJ’s blue corn tortilla chips, a crisp green salad and a nice cold Dos Equis. Oh yeah!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I’ve always loved the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas and I thought it would be fun to use it as a theme for the 2nd half of my month of Christmas posts. We all have fond and not so fond Christmas memories and sometimes they make good stories (even the miserable ones), especially if you’re drinking really good and heavily spiked eggnog.

But my twelve days of Christmas aren’t about pear trees, milking maids or golden rings – mine are my twelve most memorable Christmases. Some are sweet, some a little sad and some are pretty funny.

Many of my memories are snatches of this or that. Like my sister’s habit of opening my presents after she got bored with hers and then running into my room to tell me what I got. Of course I made her go back and rewrap them but for sure, the surprise was gone once I saw the packages.

Or my mother’s habit of getting into a snit with my dad just as we were sitting down to Christmas dinner.

Or the fact that for years Mom hid the presents in the cubby hole in her room and we would check it out daily for weeks before Christmas. The only mystery was who was getting what. You’d think she would have chosen a different hiding place once in a while.

Or the forced photos standing before the tree showing off your presents.

The smell of turkey and the taste of perfect gravy oozing on home made mashed potatoes, my aunt’s Christmas aspic made of lime jello, walnuts, carrots and raisens oh and her pumpkin bread.

Falling asleep at the window trying to stay awake to see if there really was a Santa Claus. And the joy I felt when it snowed on Christmas Eve because I knew that meant that it was really going to be a perfect White Christmas.

Christmas trees and Christmas lights. School Christmas concerts – countless favorite Christmas songs and movies. These are all the things that I think of when I think of Christmas.

So prepare yourselves folks, I’m walking down memory lane for the next few days and I hope you don’t mind strolling along with me.

WC

Giving Thanks

 

I’m off to Santa Barbara for a long overdue reunion with dear friends. But I wanted to leave this for you to read. It was a bit of a surprise to me as I had no idea that the origins of Thanksgiving did not center around the pilgrims.

Enjoy yourselves, eat hearty and good. Look around and feel gratitude for all the many things large and small that give your life meaning. Hold those you love close and tell them you love them. And say a prayer for those you can not hug.

Happy Thanksgiving. I will see you in a few days.

WC

Happy Birthday Pinky!

I saw Zelda for dinner the other night and she informed me my presence was requested for Pinky’s big day – his 39th birthday (well not really 39 but after a while you find an age you like and settle there).

The gang was going to be there. The gang being me, Zelda, Margarita (who makes killer magaritas), PG, Chief (a king among chefs), Skip (Margarita’s significant other and a killer griller) and The Kid ( Pinky’s son at least in spirit). While we hang with other friends as well, we seem to be the core group. The main herd. The alpha majors and minors.

So, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m thinking some cheese and crackers a little sparkling water, possibly margaritas because Margarita can’t not make them and a cute little cake. Then home we go.

So we all arrive on time (a historical happening to be sure) which flustered Margarita and grabbed the cocktail parphenalia. Cheese and crackers appeared, sparkling water appeared, much hustle and bustle went on in the kitchen. And though we all offered to help we ended up sitting around the livingroom, munching crackers and chewing the fat.

We talked about PG’s dad, politics and the future plans for the ‘christmas movie’ (now a tradition) that we would be participating in for Zelda’s mom. (That’s a whole other post.)

Soon enough the incredible scent of amazing food began to waft through the air. Skip and Margarita’s beagles started a sniff fest and we humans did a poor imitation of same. Next thing we knew we were seated at the art deco table on the patio and eyeing steaks the size of Omaha.

We oohed and ahed and Skip beamed. Margarita excitedly explained about a couple of wines they’d discovered and they were good.

We ate and ate and then we ate some more. Thick steaks, grilled to perfection, secretly amazing string beans with herbs, grilled potatoes that melted in your mouth…it was poetry in motion.

As most of us were screaming uncle and pushing our plates aside (with ample scraps for the beagles) The Kid was scarfing up to beat the band. I’m not sure but there may not have even been a bone left on the plate. He passed on the green beans but went crazy on the potatoes and steak and I think I even saw him eyeing Chief’s steak since there was plenty left and a doggie bag in his future.

Then the conversation modules began. Zelda started talking about the nifty new back-fixing equipment she had bought. Stretching and squeezing and traction things. Ultra sound, no sound, nice sound – it was all greek to me.

Pinky, happy with a full belly took a nap with his eyes open. Yes, Pinky does have that special talent. You see, we rib him about napping at all our soires so now he can do it sitting upright with his eyes open. No lie. The Kid just kept eating and eating and eating.

Birthday cake, ice cream and espresso magically appeared, seeming to appear out of nowhere. Perfect. More oohs and ahs.

At my end of the table, me, PG and Chief talked blogging, writing, politics, conspiracy theories, movies and masterpieces. Now, I suppose this is probably boring you by now because nothing really remarkable happened nor did any major catastrophe befall us. It was just a bunch of friends eating really good food, celebrating the birthday of a friend, having really good conversation.

I can’t remember the last time I had such a good time and such good talk. It was fun, interesting and entertaining. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about my friends and it was just one of those precious times when everything and everyone jelled. Truly a kind of magic moment among friends. A truly satisfying get together that makes you thankful for having such people in your life and having a life that includes them.

Since it was a school night, the evening ended all too soon. And before I knew it, I was back in Zelda’s big fricking truck (she calls him Chomp) being the ‘bobble’ passenger and we were headed home.

It was the best day I’ve had in recent memory – not for any particularly earth shattering reason – but for the simple pleasure of spending an evening with friends.

I would wish that everyone would have such evenings in their lives. Where the worry and trouble of the world doesn’t interfere, where the day to day grind never enters your mind and where you go home whistling.

WC

Soup’s On!

It’s that time of year – and while it’s still quite warm during the day out here – the evenings are getting brisk. The night air cues my brain that it’s time to start making big vats of homemade soup.

One of my favorites to make is a very thick vegetable soup. You may even think it’s more like a stew. What ever you call it – make it. Eat it with a crisp salad and some good crusty bread.

Vegetable Soup:

Ingredients

20 ounce can of tomato puree
2 cups of filtered water
2-3 big soup bones (beef)
large yellow onion – chopped
bell pepper – chopped
string beans cut in bite size pieces
carrot chopped
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup of black beans (only black beans)
1/2 cup of peas
(you can use frozen mixed veggies if you like, but fresh is better)
optional: potatoes/lima beans
cup of beef broth
1 tbs olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
1 chopped tomato
salt/pepper to taste
1-2 tsp cayene pepper
1 tbs worshechire sauce
1 tbs oregano

In a separate pot, put the soup bones in just enough water to cover, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for approximately 1 hour. Save liquid and give the bones to the dog.

In a stock pot add the olive oil and heat, saute onions, garlic and bell pepper until soft. Add beef broth, tomato puree and liquid from the soup bones (note, there may be some meat that has come off the bones in cooking, add that if you like it, if not, give it to the dog) and the spices. Stir over medium heat until well blended. Add the veggies bring to just under a boil and then turn down heat so soup can simmer. Leave it on the back burner for about two hours. Check every 30 minutes or so to add water if needed and to adjust spices. I like to cook it this long so the flavors really marry and you have a good flavorful soup, though you can cut the cooking time down to an hour and fifteen minutes if you prefer the veggies more el dente.

After two hours turn off the heat, stir, adjust spices again. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Make your salad and slice up your bread and then eat. If you feel really decadent, you can top it with some grated cheddar cheese.

Enjoy!
WC