With the holiday season fast approaching, I’m getting hit up for some great app recipes. The following recipe for crab cakes is a sure fire winner for any occasion or holiday in any season.
What makes this recipe so good you might ask? A large portion of the decade I spent in San Francisco was at Fog City Diner. The diner was located within walking distance of my first office, and was a key decision making factor when I searched for a bigger office space. Every lunch for six years was spent at the diner, and my ever-expanding waistline bore testament to my addiction. When Rog and I started dating, he predicted I was on the fast-track to a heart attack. I either needed to start running along the Embarcadero or “cut back on the crab cakes.”
I started running along the Embarcadero.
We recently accepted a dinner invitation to have Thanksgiving dinner with some friends and dine on a fabulous, man-made concoction, a “Tofurkey.” As my mom reads this, I imagine her first looking up and asking my father “what’s a Tuforkey,” as though it’s a new swear word.
Mom. Not so. We are talking about an actual turkey, made of tofu and molded in to the shape of a Turkey. And because you don’t know what tofu is all about, it’s a non-meat based substance that you wouldn’t deign to taste. If you did, you’d swirl it around in your mouth, then spit on the floor. We have been informed the entire tofurkey with all the trimmings are available at Whole Foods.
Rog and I are pretty excited. After all, how often do I get to experience anything new at 42? And since we’re going to deflower our tofurkey selves, we’re going all in. This means having the vegetarian stuffing, or whatever vegetarians substitute for stuffing, since it can’t have innerds in it, potatoes (sans butter or cream) and some type of vegetarian pumpkin pie. I did propose a desert or two, just in case the experiment goes bad, like Jeff Goldblume in The Fly. That idea got shot down hard and fast. As Roger later remarked, “you gonna gamble with your life, do it all the way.”
It got me thinking about other Thanksgiving dinners where we felt on the edge. During one Thanksgiving meal at another friends home, we ate some type of other white meat, but it was unidentifiable. It was complimented with cherry rice stuffing and walnuts (odd), roasted bell peppers and blueberry cobbler. Even immigrants to this country know it was pumpkins, not blueberrys. We said nary a word, ate as much as decorum dictated, then hit the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home. The friendship was short-lived.
|Tofurky, non-molded kind|
This year, our next door neighbors are going to have venison, but this is a part of deer if I’m not mistaken. Sounds gamey, anti-bambi and wild in a barbaric, I-have-to-go-kill-something type of a way. Then there is the fish alternative, Salmon being an obvious. Can’t think Washington without conjuring up a salmon. Having arrived on the other side of “Salmon Days” festival this last weekend, it’s time to give the slippery critters a break so they can mate and die as God intended.
If we go strictly vegan, we could get a roast, made of butternut squash, apples and mushrooms, a vegan turkey breast from Whole Foods, and then other strange things I’m not even going to mention.
For the pie recipe, I found this one from Nava Atlas. It sounds pretty strange, and haven’t made it myself, but as long as you (MOM) are reading, I figured I’d get crazy and put it in. You’ve tried fifteen different bread pudding recipes lately, so you might as well try a new pumpkin one!
2 cups well-baked and mashed butternut squash or sugar pumpkin (see Notes)
3/4 cup silken tofu (about half of a 12.3-ounce aseptic package)
1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp. each ground nutmeg & ginger)
9-inch good quality graham cracker or whole grain pie crustPreheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the pumpkin or squash pulp in a food processor with the remaining ingredients (except crust). Process until velvety smooth.
|NOTES: To bake butternut squash or sugar pumpkin, halve the squash or pumpkin (you need a really good knife to do so!) and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Place the the halves cut side up in a foil-lined, shallow baking dish and cover tightly with more foil. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and discard the skin. Use any leftover squash or pumpkin pulp for another purpose.If you want to make this in a hurry, you can use a 16-ounce can of pureed pumpkin.|
In the meantime, I’m going to get all ready for my first tofurkey, and let you know how it goes.
In the two weeks since this blog has been live, I’ve become addicted to looking at reader statistics. How many readers, from what country, when and how many pages views etc. As a consumer of mass information myself, I’ve often questioned why a blog/ezine will post a pluthera of pieces of one subject, and ignore others. Through this blog, I’m beginning to see….readers have clear and distinct preferences.
The first day, the site had about 40 visitors. Day two, nearly 80, and day three, about 140 or so. Weekends and Sat’s in particular are slow, and it took 10 days for the site to have 500. Day 19, the site passed 1100. The # of visitors on the home page counter doesn’t reflect how many pages a person looks at, which is averaging 3 pages (or blogs) per visit. Also, I got the counter up about four days after the site went live, so it’s off a little bit. I have no idea if this is a good trajectory or not, and it doesn’t matter so much. The money is meager ($<50). AdSense has contributed a whopping .87 cents to my bottom line. Wahuu. Good thing the near term goal is to provide an outlet for content that will be read.
Top read pieces…
Like the Forbes 500 list, this is the Sassality top list. And what you are reading include beauty tips, in particular, the perfect eyebrow secret which holds the top slot since the day it appeared. This is top by a factor of 2:1. Who knew? The piece about grandfather dying in Swedes Don’t Cry was number two for a week, until I wrote the piece on Hope and Love in a marriage. Apparently, people need marital tips more than learning about why us Swedes hold our feelings in and live to be 100. The one other piece on I wrote on Marital Victory, vascilates between number two or three. The piece about me losing everything, twice is holding strong at #4. It’s great fodder for feeling better about oneself.
The pieces on slimmer thighs, great abs and good skin are all in the top ten, though the rank seems to fluctuate with the weather. If I was really anal about it, I’d create a spreadsheet mapping the day of the week, time of day and general economic environment with the subject, write a piece and submit it to some journal. As it is, I’ll settle for licking my thumb and holding it outside the car window as I drive 60 mph.
Do-it-Yourself items like the garage are well viewed, but definitely middle-of-the-pack (out of 42 postings thus far, in the twenties), while the humorous shorts on Pickem’ up trucks and speaking in movie language go up on Wednesdays and Friday’s around 12 pm EST and 3 pm EST and 12 PST. This is statistically consistent with Internet data from the last five years, identifying users (workers at home or the office) troll the Internet on hump day when it’s slow during lunch and 3 pm for the east coast. The pattern repeats for the west coast as well.
At the same time, it’s important to maintain outward appearances when times are really bad (e.g. wear more make-up when I’m falling apart internally). Consider my brother’s ability to tell when I’ve just been dumped, or getting ready to dump a boyfriend; I’d always drop five or ten pounds. Conversely, when my relationship was trolling along at warp speed, I was happy and plump. Little surprise that now the entire family worries when I lose weight. I’m sure Oprah’s weight loss and gain and back again have dramatically contributed to her billion dollar bank account, for who can avoid the pics at the checkout line, comparing each pound to a vat of butter? That said, I have no interest having this blog becoming a weightloss diary…hence, my resistence to actually going there and divulging every last gimmick I’ve tried on the subject…but never say never. I might bow to the Gods of weight loss in the end.
Oddities, like shoe protocol and stinky feet are humorous, inspire comments, and items relating to males in particular, ensure I receive emails directly from men. That’s been unexpected and cool. I had no idea how many men see themselves in Rog’s life, issues or no, and they they are actually reading up on how to improve themselves. Talk about inspirational. It gives me hope for “man” kind in general–I guess Dr. Phil is doing his job.
Lots of coverage on marriage stuff, as long as it’s relevant and up, not a depressing b—ch-fest. Don’t like those articles. Never have. We love saving a nickle here and there, so DIY (do-it-yourself) will be on-going, as will beauty and health. Clearly, the same old topics are regurgitated again and again (can’t count the number times I’ve read the same piece on thighs but I do “one more time” thinking I’ll learn the final tidbit that will evaporate an inch off my legs).
This morning I received a request to be a Mystery Shopper for the holiday season. Mystery shopping, in case you haven’t heard of it, it’s the job of getting paid to spend money and rate the experience. It can be fun, easy and good source of fast money. On a lark, I did this for a company in San Francisco at the same time I was running my company. It was fantastic going in to Sak’s and checking out the service wearing different clothes. I was ignored when I looked like a slob and treated well when I combed my hair. No surprise, but not good for retail sales.
The job title is Mystery Shopper, the pay is $150 per assignment, and the task includes getting cash upfront, spending it on a set number of items, and rating the experience. How fast can you say “make a $150 bucks?”
This morning, I checked out Mystery Shoppers of America and saw openings for Bothell, Washington, though this section is customized by the IP address of website visitors. Large clients include everyone from Target to McDonalds to big electronic and fashion retail stores. A litany of these folks exist, and the F500 clients pay huge amounts of money on market research. It’s how they learn what the customer sees, experiences and responds to products, promotions or even the layout of the store.
For whatever reason, mystery shopping has it’s share of scammers, so it’s best to target an org that’s a part of the national professional organization.
Other seasonal jobs up for grabs can be found at Snagajob. This firm expects to hire 35,000 people this winter. As the holiday season fast approaches, retail stores aren’t the only ones ramping up. Customer service is a huge area that booms for five months–in the three months leading up to Christmas and the two months following. January and February are big for returns, and this means phone banks are overwhelmed. Having slaved at a phone bank in college, I can attest that anyone who can pick up a phone can handle customer service. That means my five year old can do this job. Pay scale? Between $13-55 per hour depending on skills.
Restaurant, management and transportation are also sectors with high demand, as consumers want to go to eat and need a means to get to their destination. Note–love the tagline “smile till your face hurts.” It may be akin to a permanent enema, but it pays green instead of gives it. Think about that while you apply.
This is also the time to think about spring and summer jobs. Those applications get filled out six months in advance. Get a jump by checking out the opps at Coolworks. Granted, one has to be a bit more mobile to run off to work in a foreign country, but a lot of these have in-state or out of state jobs that can fit a flexible lifestyle. It also has winter job postings right now.
I’ve been amazed at how many jobs are geared just to teens. Having gone through the teenage-boy-needs-a-job phase with my own son, this site is fantastic to see what’s out there and get right to it. Now an enterprising geek from Harvard needs to come up with variations for forty-something-stay-at-home-mom jobs.
The St. Petersburg Times and BusinessWire both offer tips for navigating the seasonal job market. This includes starting NOW, and focusing on the bright spots in the retail market–what companies are doing well while staying away from the stores suffering from recession. According to BusinessWire, skills and training are helpful, but not required.
In preparation for the cooking class I’m giving nxt wknd, I’ve been jotting notes down for a little give-away cookbook. In occurred to me that if I have cooked for nearly thirty-five years and had no clue on the very basics, I’d be doing a favor by sharing my lessons learned.
Sarah’s General Cooking Basics
1. Eggs at room temperature (better for fluff), better for integration. Also whip faster when room temperature. If you have only cold eggs, heat by cracking the eggs into a metal-bottom bowl. Place bowl in warm water for a few minutes. This will warm the eggs, but not ruin the properties. Saves hours of room-temp time.
2. Sugar-super fine when required and called for…BUT, not good for most recipes. In fact, one time I made the mistake of using superfine for Macaroons and completely ruined the recipe. The macaroons didn’t hold shape, so instead of being like little mountains, they were flat, white oil stains on my cookie sheet.
3. High quality chocolate. Ghiradelli. Moderate cost and highest output for cost. Through experimentation, I’ve found the Baker’s chocolate is OK, but it’s a more corse. The texture isn’t as nice, nor is the flavor as rich. I also have to add a titch more sugar when I use Baker’s, than when I use brand such as Ghiradelli. (yes, titch is my technical cook’s phrase).
4. Convection vs not. Convection bake-great for baking w/crust. Pure convection, great for meats. Regular bake, best for dairy-based, such as cheesecake. Unfortunately, the timing is all over the map, depending on the brand. While some of my cookbooks identify or recommend times, I tend to go on-line to get the timing for my particular brand of oven, Dacor. I learned the lesson the hard way, using the recommended time from the cookbook for a Thanksgiving roast, and ended up blowing $70.00 worth of meat because it was overdone. Never again!
5. Always, always grill onions and garlic in butter. Flavor is much better. When I’m feeling frisky, I skip the oil altogether. For example, in scalloped potatoes. I modified an already to-die-for cardiac arrest recipe by using butter, and it was much better. Granted, I had to do a bit of skimming from the top, but then I cut this by using extra thick whipping cream (organic), and it was awesome.
6. Organic whipping cream. Now, I’m not a nut about the whole organic thing. I try as much as I can. Yet non-organic buttermilke has no difference in the texture of the recipe (and I can’t tell in the taste). On the other hand, I promise you, organic whipping cream is the only way to go. For whatever reason, the texture and outcome of the recipe is SOO much better with organic. I’d recommend my local provider, but understand they are only, well, local. Sorry.
7. Always add the herbs in the butter vs the raw in the item. Flavor spreads better. I’m not a trained cook mind you, just a hack with forty-years experience. I don’t care what the cookbooks and chefs on TV say—I prefer to add certain seasonings during the sautéing part because the flavor—expands—is the best choice of word. This is particular true when the sauté is being added to breads or other item that will suck up the seasoning.
8. Underbake ‘baked’ items (brownies, cookies) for better texture, by at least 1-2 minutes. Here again, practice makes perfect. I’ve spent more than hundreds of dollars baking cookies, brownies etc that are perfect when warm, and perhaps the first hour afterward. Beyond that, Rog might as well use them for a hockey puck. Unless the recipe identifies how it will turn out, I underbake. Then it will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days no problem.
9. Sweat the lentils. Ensures no soggy, mushy soups (works with peas as well). For years, my soups fell victim to globs of mushy goo, instead of nice, split pea soups with identifiable peas. The same was true for lentils. Then I was told by a nice old woman, the trick was sweating the lentils.
This means to take the lentils (or peas/whatever) put in the pot with oil (which I replace with butter) and ‘brown’ them, for about 3-7 minutes, depending on the quantity. This ensures the lentils hold their nice shell while cooking the inside (of course, after you add everything else and follow the rest of the recipe).
I have a 10th, but thought 9 sounded less daunting!
|Mom and 2 cubs
They’ve gone baptist
This inspires a whole lot of frenzy in the Gerdes household, from decorating to buying costumes. The decorating part starts with the single planter I own, a large cowboy boot, very appropriate with my whole western-thing I’ve got going since moving to the hinterland. Hinterland being defined as seeing a momma bear and her two cubs eating berries three days in a row by the local Baptist church, and today, seeing a coyote chasing a deer through my yard. My environ qualifies as the hinterland.
Last night was Apple Celebration, a wonderful adoration of children, fall colors and all things that fall from trees. My task was to prepare an appetizer and I willfully rebelled against the inclusion of apples. It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s that my husband, and men in general, want meat in addition to, or instead of, one sweet dessert and app after another. I made three dozen, the first plate was emptied in between the I put it down and turned around to get the other serving dish and put it on the table.
|Layered Taquio Appetizer|
Time to prep: 20 min
- Sautee pan
Ingredients to purchase
- sweet onions (1)
- small chicken (pre-roasted) is fastest
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper (see note below)
- Good olive oit
- Salted butter
- Corn tortillas
- Sour cream
- chile seasoning
- tobasco (optional)
- hungarian sweet paprika
- kosher salt
- cilantro (but can use parsely if you don’t care for cilantro)
Note: (I have a thing against green bells. I’ve found guests don’t like the stronger taste of greens, so I opt for the other colors. The flavor is a bit sweeter. You can substitute at will).
- Take it off the stove to let cool.
|Cookie cutter rounds
a must for every cook
|Cutting the tortilla rounds|