Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Heart My Slow Cooker(s)

Okay, I still call it a “crock pot”. So sue me. I bought a crock pot decades ago when there was only ONE kind of slow cooker. And it was called a crockpot. For me it’s sort of like the folks in Georgia, while I was attending school in the late 70’s/early 80’s calling every soda pop a “coke”. Or, don’t we all say “kleenex” when we know we’re supposed to say “tissue”?

Rival called it a “Crock-Pot” in 1971, and I had to have one. Mine was avocado green. No removable ceramic insert here; I carefully washed it avoiding getting water into its innards.

What a joy to come home from a long day in the classroom to the smell of a delightful dinner waiting for me. Ahh!

Fast forward quite a few decades. Now we have “slow cookers” made by a variety of companies. And it is still one of my most used and valued appliances. So much so that I have four of them in various sizes. And, yes, my avocado baby still cooks away for me.

However, since I have two houses, the crock-pots reside two to a home. At home two, when my really cheap (not Rival) brand slow cooker died most inconveniently while not-cooking dinner for guests, I went looking for another smallish one to replace it. I only have the one avocado one, and it stays put at house one.

At the store, I discovered that just as portion sizes in restaurants have ballooned out of control, so, too, have slow cookers. So now I have two large ones. Bleah!

So today I ordered a small one. Amazon will deliver it to me for more than the cost of the appliance. Still . . . When a girl needs a smaller crock pot, she’s gotta have one.

Here’s a recipe I have made a lot in both large and small slow cookers. It’s been around for a while, and I’m not even sure who did the original recipe. I believe it was Betty Crocker. People always clean it out my crock pot when this is on the dessert menu!

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake (serves 6)
1 c flour                                                2 T oil
½ c sugar                                              1 t vanilla
2 T cocoa                                              ½ c nuts to batter
2 t baking powder                                 ¾ c brown sugar
½ t salt                                                   ¼ c cocoa
½ c milk                                                1 ½ c hot water
Pam a 2 ½-3 qt slow cooker. Mix together first five ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Add nuts.
Spread batter in bottom of slow cooker. Mix together brown sugar, cocoa, and hot water until smooth. Pour over batter.
Cook 2-2 ½ hours. Let cool for 30-40 min with lid off. Serve with whipped or ice cream.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Entomophagy Recipes

Over at Janet Greger’s blog ( ) I guest posted about why we should eat bugs. They are a highly nutritious, sustainable, safe food source that Americans, for the most part, haven’t embraced yet. But think back ten years ago. Were you a sushi eater or did the thought of raw fish turn your stomach? Fast forward, and today towns of any size at all have at least one sushi bar.

Bug cuisine could be in your future, too!

Why is it that we haven’t embraced entomophagy before now. After all, over 2,000,000,000 people use insects (oh, and worms, too, but that’s another column) as a primary component of their diet. From larva to adult, people relish bugs. No, I don’t mean pickle them, but I suppose you could. Hmm.

I blame Hollywood for the bias against entomophagy.

In so many scifi movies, insectoid creatures are the bad guys trying to take over Earth. I suppose they think it’s easier to accept killing something so removed from us taxonomically. Whatever. Between Hollywood and all the pest removal commercials I suppose it makes sense that we’d view insects as enemies and not a food source. When did you last see a movie when cows tried to take over the world or a pest service offered to remove unwanted pigs from your house?

But, seriously, the world is projected to be over 9 billion people by 2050, so we will have to double our food supply. We cannot feed that many people with a mammalian-based food source. People are already starving all over the world.

So, to get you convinced, I am including some articles/books to read and some recipes for you to try. Alli Wesson, my “Dinner is Served” protag is doing her bit. In book two of the series, Prime Rib and Punishment, Alli directs her cooking school students to create a tasty insect-based dish for any part of the meal--appetizer to dessert. This doesn’t go over well with Head Chef Fournier. But Alli confronts him in one of their legendary clashes that supports the police’s notion she must have killed him. She just wanted to bring the school into the 21st century. Sheesh!

Anyway, crickets and grasshoppers are touted as “gateway bugs” to get you started with an insectoid cuisine. But branch out. Be like Alli. Try something out of your comfort zone. More bug recipes are on a page (right hand column) on this site. Just because “All Recipes” and “Cooking Light” don’t have bug recipes--yet--don’t let that deter you.

These two recipes from the Iowa State University Entomology club were featured on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. Now how respectable is that???

Chocolate Chirpie Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 12-ounce chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted crickets

Preheat oven to 375. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla; beat until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and insects, mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded measuring teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Mealworm Fried Rice

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. chopped onions
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 c. minute rice
  • 1 c. cooked mealworms

Scramble egg in a saucepan, stirring to break egg into pieces.
Add water, soy sauce, garlic and onions. Bring to a boil.
Stir in rice. Cover; remove from heat and let stand five minutes.

If you have a favorite bug recipe, or if this whole idea just bugs you, leave a comment. Bon appétit!

Books about Edible Insects

-Man Eating Bugs by Peter Menzel & Faith D'Aluisio

-Eat-A-Bug Cookbook by David George Gordon

-Creepy Crawly Cuisine by Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, Ph.D.

-Entertaining with Insects by Ronald L. Taylor

List of edible insects

The Food Insects Newsletter

Native Americans Edible Insects Page

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's in a Name?

When it comes to titling books, authors are all over the place. Some authors narrow the choice down to a few options and ask their affinity groups and/or fan base to help select the title. Other authors toss out the premise and ask for suggestions for titles. Some wait until the book is done, expecting the completed novel to name itself after all that intense work on it. Some authors have a great title, and they let the story unfold around it.

One thing all authors acknowledge is that naming your book is one of the most important elements of novel writing. It’s the first thing any potential reader sees first. They don’t read the blurb first then look for the title. The title grabs them (or not) so they pick up the book to read the blurb (or not). What’s in a name? a lot! Despite Shakespeare’s argument to the opposite, authors know book names matter.

I am one who does not struggle finding titles for my work. Which is not to say I don’t struggle with writing. I have demons I wrestle that other writers put down with ease. No, I am just saying, gratefully, that at least I don’t have titling issues to contend with as well.

Some of my titles are pretty pedestrian. Lucinda is the title character in my historical fiction in two time periods. Land’s End is the name of the condo complex where my short story anthology unfolds. But the real fun of naming is with my two culinary mystery series.

For some reason, many culinary mysteries are puns. It adds an extra fillip to the story. Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear series includes titles like Dying for Chocolate, Cereal Murders, Chopping Spree, and Main Corpse. What’s not to like for a foodie and a mystery lover?

Being a word guy, punny titles appeal to me on several levels. Son Brooklyn jokes that I should auction off some of my culinary mystery titles since I can never live long enough to write them all. He thinks that might net me more income than the book royalties. Gee, thanks, Kid!

But I’m not going to do that. Here are titles I know I’ll use and some I can’t live long enough to use. Help yourself. I’ll look forward to reading what you come up with if you write a culinary mystery, too.

Plan to use for “Dinner is Served” series:
Mission Impastable     
Prime Rib and Punishment
Cooks in the Can
Peas Porridge Pot       
The Taming of the Stew
Tequila Mockingbird
Grape Expectations
Glazed and Infused
Roux the Day
Case of Syrah, Syrah
The Holy Grill
Bone Appétit 
Fried and Prejudice

Plan to use for “For Everything a Season” series”
Mint to Be
Thyme to Die
Sage Advice
Arsenic and Old Mace
Down by the Bay Leaf
Cumin to Me
Broken out in Chives
Gingerly into the Night

Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time

Help Yourself:
Romeo and Julienned
King Sear
Midsummer Night’s Cream
Measure for Measure
O, Jello
Much Ado about Noshing
The Berry Wives of Windsor
Crumb What May
That’s a Moray           
Dressed to Kill
Chop to It
An American Pie in Paris
Peppered with Shells
Take with a Grain of Salt
Dead and Butter
By Hook or by Cook    
Borne and Bread
Fry, Fry Again
Garden of Eaten
Refry Gravity 
Serial Griller
Bashed Potatoes
Good to Grate
Veg Out
Rye, Rye Again
Cream a Little Cream of Me
Boxed Up
Ryes and Shine
I’ll See You in My Creams
Butter Off Dead
Under Lox and Quiche
Wrapsody in Blue Cheese
Lick It to Me
Porky and Buns
Dough, a Dear
In the Lick of Thyme
A Steak in the Heart   
A Spoonful of Sugar
Grilling them Softly
Easier Fed than Done
Pitcher Perfect
Fat or Fiction?