Sunday, January 25, 2009


    To celebrate President Barack Obama's inauguration, Jon and I threw a party in his honor, replete with many of his favorite foods. We relied on the blog ObamaFoodORama, and some serious Google research, to come up with the following menu.

    -Obama's family chili recipe (link to the recipe here), which was very tasty. I'd definitely make it again.

    -His supposed favorite snacks, Planter's Trail Mix and Dentyne Ice -- I'd never tried it before, but liked the gum a lot! We nixed the idea of Nicorette.

    -Salted edamame: I'm pretty sure I read that Illinois is the fourth largest soybean producing state, though I can't remember where. Also, I hope that Obama will help figure out our fuel crisis and think that going back to (or starting with?) the basics is part of the answer.

    -Make your own salad roll (link to directions here), because, as our new President says, "We can't allow any idle hands." Salad rolls are great to serve at a dinner party because they help people interact, though it's very time consuming to prep the vegetables. So much so that I watched a lot of the Inauguration proceedings with tomato seed-covered hands!

    -Frittatas with a hashbrown bottom, and onion, red pepper, and spinach, which is our President's favorite vegetable aside from broccoli. Oh the shame -- originally I wanted to make prosciutto wrapped asparagus -- until I read he doesn't like asparagus!

    -Cupcakes, because I kept watching TV segments and reading news articles about how they were hugely popular in D.C. leading up to the inauguration. And Whole Foods' sea salt caramels, as a nod to Obama's addiction to Fran’s Grey Sea Salt Caramels.

    -PBR because it's Obama's favorite beer, and a cocktail called Obama au Lei. I came up with the very New Orleansy name -- we wanted to do something that honored his Hawaiian roots, so I used the site Drink Swap to find the perfect rum and pineapple-based cocktail recipe. I also added in ample doses of hope, change, intelligence, and charisma for equal measure. A few days later, I enjoyed getting a little tipsy on the rum-soaked pineapple pieces that were salvaged from the bottom of the drained punch bowl. Don't know if it was the rum, or the thought of President Obama, but along with being tipsy I felt quite hopeful and intelligent too!

    Obama Family Chili Recipe

    I forgot to take a picture until the very end. Guess everyone liked it!

    I tripled the following Obama Family Chili Recipe for our Inauguration Party and made it with ground turkey meat. Due to time constraints, I used canned tomatoes. I chose not to purchase oregano or ground basil, served the chili with non-fat, pre-grated cheddar cheese and skipped the rice. The recipe doesn't include timing elements, but essentially, once you've got your meat browned, you're in good shape. Overall, it's about an hour to make and was very tasty, though a little heavy. The heaviness was balanced well by our Make-Your-Own-Salad-Roll bar.


    -1 large onion, chopped
    -1 green pepper, chopped
    -Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
    -Several cloves of garlic, chopped
    -1 pound ground turkey or beef
    -1 can red kidney beans
    -1 tablespoon olive oil
    -3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    -1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    -1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
    -1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    -1/4 teaspoon ground basil
    -1 tablespoon chili powder

    -Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft.

    -Add ground meat and brown.

    -Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat.

    -Add red wine vinegar.

    -Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down.

    -Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes.

    -Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.

    Make Your Own Salad Roll

    "We can't allow any idle hands," President Barack Obama has been quoted as saying, which is why there was a make-your-own-salad-roll bar at our Inauguration Party. The prep is a lot of work, so my hands were definitely not idle that day!

    Salad rolls are a fun way to shake up a regular bowl of lettuce, especially if you eat salad all the time and are bored by the same ole-same ole. They're also great for getting dinner party guests to interact (well, at least to interact with the food, if not each other).

    Ingredients & Directions
    -Choose a sturdy lettuce, like Iceberg or Romaine, wash and dry it, then trim into pieces a little larger than your hand, thinning thick lettuce ribs when necessary.

    -Dice your favorite salad ingredients very very small (this is the time-consuming part, for me at least). I like tomato (deseeded so there's less runny mess), Kalamata olives, cucumber, and yellow pepper, for example.

    -Put the lettuce on a tray, and the veggies in bowls with individual spoons.

    -Spoon some goat cheese (or another spreadable cheese) into a bowl as well.

    -Fill a small pitcher with your preferred salad dressing. Include salt and pepper, and if you want to cater to Obama's tastes (and mine), hot sauce, on your salad bar.

    -I typically like to make the first roll to show guests what to do: take lettuce, spread with goat cheese, sprinkle vegetables, top with a dab of dressing, roll the lettuce, and chomp.

    Best to eat over a plate!

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    Rock of Pie

    Jennifer: "What is this?" Chew, chew, chew, smell, glare, sigh,
    take a big swig of red wine, chew, grumble.

    Jon: "Not pizza." Swallow, swallow, swallow, flip the channel to check the basketball score, growl, swallow, sigh.

    Jennifer: "Do you think Bret Michaels has any hair under that bandanna?"

    We agree he doesn't.

    Jennifer: "What is this?" I ask again as I finish my last slice of undersauced, undergrilled, underflavored cardboard.

    Jon: "Not pizza. We won't be trying this place again."

    We can barely look each other in the eye. It would've been quite apropos if "Another One Bites the Dust" was a Poison song, but it's Queen.

    I was truly hoping for a new explanation that time, like an introduction to some trendy new food I should've known about.

    The not good to very bad pizzas we keep trying are kind of like Bret Michaels' reality show. I keep watching because I hope he'll find the woman who'll finally satisfy him, and the journey is entertaining. And I keep ordering because I hope to find the pizza that will be the cherry on the sundae that is New Orleans. Pizza is one of the few things that I miss about living in New York (though the weather's been so warm Pinkberry's started to slip back into my thoughts...).

    But then, just like NYC's pizza is so much better than Nola's, one note from Freddy Mercury's beautiful mouth was better than any album Poison ever produced. So maybe the two shouldn't be compared.

    Similar to some of the women who appear on Michaels' "Rock of Love" series, after trying at least four different "pizza" shops in Nola, I've started to get desperate. To the point of considering booking a trip to La Guardia, cabbing it straight to John's, eating a 12-slicer myself, and then bringing a few pizzas home with me to freeze.

    I can just imagine it:

    "What's that great smell, did you make homemade pizza?!?" Jon will say as he walks in the door from work.

    "Ur, um, yes, and, I'm sorry about the grocery bill but the pizza ingredients cost $350 roundtrip...but try a bite, it'll 'rock your world'!"

    "What do you mean 'roundtrip?'..."

    Cue "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

    And scene.

    Sunday, January 04, 2009

    Auld Lang Syne, Southern Style

    Apparently, according to Wikipedia, this year I made Skippin' Jenny instead of Hoppin' John, since I cooked the traditional Southern New Year's Day dish on January 2nd instead of the 1st. Incidentally, collard greens are still called collards no matter what day of the year you make 'em.

    Whether you call them Jenny or John, the combination of black-eyed peas, celery, onion and green pepper simmered together then served over white rice is healthy and delicious, and purported to bring good luck.

    For a change, I tried pre-seasoned, partially cooked turkey breasts for the protein in the Hoppin' John and also in the collards. The turkey was flavorful and tender, but next New Year's I'll return to using the traditional ham hock (that link takes you back two years to the first time I made this meal for Jon, just before the seed of possibility that we'd move to New Orleans was planted), which gives both dishes a smokier flavor.

    I chose pre-soaked black-eyed peas at the grocery, which I won't do again. Part of the joy of making Hoppin' John is simmering the dish for hours. The instructions for the peas said only to simmer for 40 minutes, and though I cooked them longer than that, they just didn't turn out the same as the usual bag of black-eyed peas you soak overnight.

    If Hoppin' John (or Jenny) is said to bring luck, and collards are supposed to bring money, then I'll start my very own superstition right here, and say that my accompanying cornbread muffins (from a mix), which I added canned creamed corn to, brought satisfaction.

    Indeed, Jon (no h) and I (went by Jenny in 2nd grade, but never again!), as well as my visiting sister-in-law, were each very satisfied by the meal. I know that part is fact and not superstition, because we all had second helpings, and soon all the muffins were gone.