Guest Blog – Lazy Man Cooks

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Today’s Guest Blogger is MountainWestBob!

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We couldn’t agree more with the “Old’s Cool!”

Andy’s Introduction to Bob:

Ann and I met Bob and his wife Gayle when I was in grad school back in the dark ages,  i.e., when research was done with Fortran and punch cards.  Our connection actually goes beyond being grad school buddies. It turns out that Gayle was the OB nurse on duty at Poudre Valley Hospital when our daughter Sara was born; Gayle introduced Ann to the world of newborn babies… something we really needed at that time.   Bob left grad school for Pinkerton, and because stage coach robberies were only in movies by then, his work was largely in industrial security.   The great stories he shared with me about uncovering employee theft in various industries provided wonderful examples over the years for my deviant behavior and criminology courses.  So after all of these years it was very special that Bob agreed to be a guest blogger  (following some arm twisting I must admit).

Now here’s Bob’s Introduction:

We’ve just marked 15 years of retirement. Some know more of the details, such as how we met 52 winters ago because we’d both cut the same class at the U of MN due to extreme cold (minus 30 or more) on a Monday, and how 6 weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, I observed that “Since we do this so well together, we should get married” and Gayle responded, “OK.”

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Bob & Gayle – still together more than 50 years after that bitter cold Minnesota day

I failed in grad school due to an acquired inability to understand articles in sociology journals. Joined the old Pinkerton’s, Inc. folks and made a career out of industrial security. Everything from the home and offices of a Cabinet official, corporate headquarters, and colleges, to major slaughterhouses received the benefit of my steely gaze and wisdom.


Allan Pinkerton’s steely gaze circa 1850.

New Mexico is our 7th state since marriage. Gayle followed along as school and work took me on a trek from Minnesota to Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, and New Jersey. That made the retirement location hers to determine. We bought a motor home and visited (or at least drove through) 40 states before discovering the moderate climate, captivating culture, and enchanting geology of New Mexico; living in a minority Anglo state is good! And, good for us.

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The New Mexico flag salutation: “I salute….the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”

Gayle is mostly-retired as a critical care nurse, having first earned a nursing diploma, and later her BSN and MA degrees.

We’ve traveled during these years, volunteered a bunch, and use the local Y to good effect.

[We asked Bob to tell us a little about how and why he got into cooking]

What drives my cooking, besides thinking that often it’s the only way I’m going to get fed?

In my natal family, we each had to learn how to do everything. Laundry, sewing to repair clothes (darning socks, securing rips and tears, replacing buttons), cleaning house, and… cooking. Plus, of course, house repair, some plumbing, electrical repairs, construction, and basic gardening. It was a broad “domestic education.”

waffle iron

By second grade, I was coming home to an empty house at lunch time and had to fend for myself. My most dramatic lunch involved a decision to make waffles… I found the waffle-iron and plugged it in, got the recipe book and ingredients out and was ready. Except that I had a question. So, I dialed 411 for information, explained my predicament to the operator and asked whether I was to use a teaspoon or a tablespoon of one ingredient. She responded by explaining that if the instruction used a capital letter “T” it required a tablespoon. I thanked her, made excellent waffles, cleaned everything up and returned to school on time! We had little money, and – if memory serves – I made a batch of mapleine syrup (from a powder, mixed with water and heated on the stove – Log Cabin was a sometime-luxury.)

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By the time I was 14 or 15 my parents had moved us to another house and we were renting the first place out to students. Girls. I was often there doing chores, and heard the girls kvetching about their poor cooking skills and resulting lackluster dinners. I offered to make them something nice. They accepted, and we chose a day. I prepared a nice baked chicken dish similar to a cacciatore, except it was baked with milk and or cream, probably half-and-half – my memory is a bit faded. The five girls were delighted.

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Bob back when he met Gayle

Gayle and I share nearly all chores, though we each have specialties (I do any necessary trimming and spraying outdoors, she does everything connected with potted plants). We share cooking and cleaning up. Both of us have a plate-full of volunteer, exercise, and reading activities, and neither one of us wants to make the kitchen a focus of our energies. Here, too, we share, but with specialties. I do very nearly everything concerning the grill (almost all meat and many veggies are grilled), and Gayle does the same regarding our functional salads*. We focus on the goal of tasty and nutritious dishes, with easy preparation and clean-up.

*A functional salad involves real veggies and little lettuce (Editor’s note: see our blog about holding back on lettuce here).  Spinach, onion, sweet peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes combine with others as may be available, and often obviate any “need” for a separate cooked veggie on the plate. Throw chunks of grilled chicken atop one of these salads and a healthy and hearty one-dish meal is created. Continue reading

Catering to the World Cup


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Each year we plan a visit to Brooklyn to see our son, Travis.  When we suggested that this year June was a good time for us, we got a most definitive, unwavering response: “well, you really can’t come after June 14, because that’s when The World Cup begins and I’ll be too busy watching it.”

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Guess what team we’ll be rooting for

Travis has been to several World Cups – Brazil in 2014, Germany in 2006, the U.S. in 1994.  In 1990 he watched the World Cup on television in Germany, as they defeated Argentina in Italy.  Travis and Andy were in Amsterdam in 2010 to watch the World Cup being hosted in South Africa (clearly, that’s a long story – which Andy addresses in today’s Andy’s Corner).  However, not surprisingly, the lure of a trip to Russia to watch the 2018 World Cup was not great, especially since the U.S. – for the first time in 32 years – will not be a part of the competition.

Soccer (football, if you’re British, fútbol, if you’re from Mexico) has always been high on our family’s “to-do” list.  I even played one game of soccer once with a bunch of slightly-older women and think I could have been a high school star had soccer been a sport either girls or guys played back in my Fort Collins High School days.

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Sara got to play soccer, even if I didn’t.  Andy’s selection of the “Sparklers” team name has been referenced in the Deseran family history under “Bad Choices We Have Made!”

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Travis and the Baton Rouge Tigers soccer team – circa 1979; intimidating-looking group, no?

We never want to be political on this blog (HA!  Of course, we WANT to be political, but we try not to be).  Even though our DNA says we should be supporting Sweden (me) and England (Andy), we’ll be rooting for Mexico all the way.  But the odds are against them.  Soccerbot – whatever that is – says that Germany is predicted to win, with Brazil and France being strong contenders.

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The first WC game we’ll be (anxiously) watching is a big one: Germany vs Mexico, June 17, at 8 am our time.  The final game of this year’s World Cup will be played in Moscow on Sunday, July 15, also at 8 am Pacific time, 11 am in Brooklyn.  Since those of us in the U.S. will have to watch these games during breakfast – or brunch, we’re offering up suggestions for your Breakfast of Champions World Cup/Copa Mundial Get-together.

We’ve got celebratory recipes to cover all possibilities:  Mexico, Germany, Brazil, France….unless, of course, it’s a total upset.


France: Kir (a glass of chilled sparkling wine with 2 tsp of chilled Creme de Cassis mixed in)

Mexico: Michelada (see recipe below)  and Jugo Verde

Brazil: Peets “Brazil Minas Naturais” Coffee

Germany – Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen beer

Little Bites

France: Chouquettes (pastry puffs) – see recipe below

Brazil:  Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) – see recipe below

Main Breakfast Dishes

Germany: Apfelpfannkuchen – German Apple Pancakes  (make the batter ahead of the game – even the evening before and then refrigerate – omit the apples, if you wish,  and pop it in the hot oven about 1/2 hour before you want to eat)

Mexico: Super Simple Molletes  – Mexican Toasted Cheese Sandwich with Lazy Day Salsa (make the salsa a day ahead; have the molletes all put together before the game – and then toast them when you’re ready to eat)


A World Cup Fruit Combo: apples to honor Germany, strawberries for France, pineapple for Brazil and jicama for Mexico.  A dab of sweetened yogurt on top, preferably Noosa “Honey” yogurt, made in Fort Collins, Colorado!   Cut up the fruit the day before the game and add a squeeze of lime juice.

Continue reading

Cans Redux: A Bicycle Tour and Mochiko Muffins

A quick Lagniappe edition of BigLittleMeals from Andy.


I recently completed the Santa Rosa Cycling Club’s El Camino Real bicycle tour riding nearly 320 miles and climbing 24,000 feet.  In my opinion, to say that this was challenging would be a gross understatement.  (See Bill Oetinger’s detailed description of the tour.)


Our camp near Santa Barbara CA

For me one of the highlights of the tour occurred before we even got on our bikes.  Just after we arrived at our campground and put up our tents, Paul, a fellow rider, came by handing out mochiko muffins his wife had baked.

The muffins were wonderful!  They had a unique chewy texture and were not too sweet.  While the others were chatting about gear ratios, bike frame configurations, and the next day’s route,  I was thinking to myself that these mochiko muffins must be included in our blog.  What I didn’t know, until seeing the recipe (thanks to Paul for sending it to us) was that the ingredients include canned coconut milk and canned evaporated milk, which we just blogged about.  What could be more perfect as a Lagniappe edition following last week’s “Kick the Can” blog?


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Brown Butter Mochiko Muffins

Brown Butter Mochiko Muffins

  • Servings: 24+ muffins
  • Print
These could be served for breakfast, dessert or mid-day snacking.  Gluten free, a little chewy, dense, not too sweet, and so good! Recipe adapted from Samin Nosrat’s NYTimes recipe

  • ½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pans
  • 1 13.66-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 3 cups mochiko (glutinous-rice) flour – or the full 16 oz box from Koda Farms Mochiko
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Generously grease two (or more?) muffin pans with butter, including the outer rims of each mold (so that the muffins are easily removed ) OR use mini-muffin tins, in which case you’ll get more than 48 2″ muffins (mini-muffins are our preferred way to eat them.  Bite-size; you can eat lots and not feel guilty).

Place butter in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the foam begins to subside and the butter turns golden brown and begins to smell nutty, about 4 minutes. Don’t let the butter burn.  The minute it is the desired dark golden color, get it off the heat.  Add coconut and evaporated milks and sugar. Whisk until sugar and coconut milk melt. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together mochiko flour, baking powder and salt. Pour milk mixture into dry mixture, and whisk until smooth. Scoop a scant 1/2 cup of batter into each muffin tin (it’s best to only fill them up about 2/3 of the way, so they don’t go over the edge).

Bake for 50-55 minutes (or 30 minutes, if you’re using mini muffin tins); decrease baking time by 10 minutes if using a nonstick dark metal tin. The muffins are done when they are butterscotch brown on top and an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean.

Run a knife along the sides of each mold, then invert pans to release mochi, and cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes.

Store leftover mochi in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days or freeze.

The recipe could easily be cut in half – except that you end up using just part of a can of evaporated milk and part of a can of coconut milk.  Better to make the whole thing and freeze lots!  Recipe from and Andy and Ann.
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The color to look for in your browned butter

Kick the Can

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I may need therapy.  I occasionally decide that I need to be more aware of environmental issues.  Maybe it’s because Tacolicious, our kids’ SF restaurant, recently quit using straws in their drinks.  Plastic straws are totally out; paper straws are available only if you ask.

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Plastic straws – no longer an option for your Michelada at Tacolicious

That made me think about whether I should be buying tomatoes in cans or in boxes.  Which is better for our planet?  Admittedly, I didn’t know there were tomatoes packaged in boxes until a few months ago when I spotted them at Whole Foods.

After doing a little Googling of the issue, I’m a mess.  It’s not only the environment I need to worry about, it’s my health.  I know a little bit about the concerns of BPA, but I didn’t know that some cans unload lots of BPA to their unknowing users and some don’t.  I certainly didn’t know that there’s a trend to package vegetables by using vegetable-residue packaging material.  And what about the environmental impact that paper products have?  I’ve barely begun that investigation.

We only use a few canned products – mainly tomatoes, beans, chipotle chiles, evaporated and sweetened condensed milk, and coconut milk.  Do I need to unload them?  Kick them out of my life? Make – or can – my own? (HA!)

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That brings me to Kick the Can.

I remember as a child playing rowdy versions of Kick the Can in the corner of our backyard.  But I’ve yet to figure out who played it with me.  Cross off my brother – who is 7 years older.  Cross off my BFF Eileen, who says she only played it with her brothers.  Cross off my BFF Patti, who claims she had other (more fun?) BFFs to play with.  And put a question mark by my BFF Jeanie, who thinks MAYBE she remembers me playing – but in her backyard, not mine.

Did I play alone – maybe with imaginary playmates?

Anyway, those 3 BFF just visited me in Glen Ellen and memories from our childhood in Fort Collins dominated much of the conversation.  We all remember Red Rover Red Rover, Hop Scotch, Jump Rope (with “Teddy Bear” as the cadence), Tether Ball, Jacks, and Square-Dancing.

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We recalled that while my Besties were all learning to swim at City Park, I was learning to ride horses (as Andy points out in today’s “The Cowgirl and the Coach” in Andy’s Corner).  I think knowing how to swim might have served me better in life!

We remember eating bologna sandwiches with mayo and white bread, Sugar Daddy and Big Hunk candy bars, and LOTS of food from cans.

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Did cans have BPA in those days?  Apparently, not.

In case a little more research convinces you to kick out your cans, here are some recipes for you to savor before you make that move. Continue reading

a wee apologia

thumbsup campbell soupThere has been public outcry (from at least two of our dear readers), aghast that we have slammed Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.  Did Sara have the audacity to say she’d never had – nor would she have – a can of it in her cupboard?  Did we scoff at the idea of someone actually fixing or eating and, yes, LIKING a curry made with it?

We want to apologize by offering up a few recipes from our past – all made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup .  In case you didn’t know, you can now buy “heart healthy” Cream of Mushroom soup.  Interestingly enough, the MSG has also been omitted.  See my feelings about that in Food for Thought.  I’d still go with the original version.

You can click on the recipes above to make them readable.  Mind you – posting them is not the same as recommending them.

Knowing about this controversy which apparently surrounds the use of Cream of Mushroom Soup, I solicited input from three of my Fort Collins’ Besties, who are all visiting me in Glen Ellen this week: Eileen, Patti, and Jeanie.

Eileen went through her mom’s recipe files and quickly found 5 recipes that were her family’s favorites – all with Cream of Mushroom soup.  Especially interesting since Eileen’s mother was focused on feeding her family nutritious and healthy foods.

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Eileen’s fav Tuna Casserole with Cream of Mushroom Soup

Patti recommends using Cream of Mushroom soup for an easy Beef Burgundy.

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Patti’s Beef Burgundy with Cream of Mushroom Soup

Jeanie confesses that this 1976 recipe for Spinach Squares from Sunset Hors d’Oeuvres cookbook (which sold for $2.95) is still her go-to for potluck parties.  It’s finger food.  It can be made ahead of time and chilled.  Jeanie says her mother didn’t think much of canned soups – except canned tomato soup, which was served up when Jeanie or her sisters were sick.  But Jeanie’s mom was a connoisseur of jello.  Especially jello with carrots, canned pears, or fruit cocktail.

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Jeanie’s favorite party food – Spinach Squares with Cream of Mushroom Soup

All in all,  writing about Cream of Mushroom Soup has been a True Confessional kind of experience.  Those familiar red and white cans definitely bring back memories for those of us who experienced those “halcyon days” of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Continue reading

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