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.)

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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 BigLittleMeals.com 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

Guest Blog – From Curry to Curry: A Generational Curiosity

As I introduce our 3rd guest blogger, I can’t help thinking back to the recipe we blogged about in May of last year: Lamb Kheema in a Hurry Curry.  Admittedly, we were more interested then in the Golden State Warriors’ play-off hopes and Stephen Curry than we were in Indian Curry.   Now it’s playoff time again: Go Warriors!  Go, Curry!

I’m also intrigued with an article I read recently in The New Yorker in which the author Judith Thurman is quoted as saying, “Every tribe has an ancestral food that its exiles yearn for, and that its children can’t live without.”

That made me think about today’s guest blogger.

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Sara was impressed with The Raggedys even as a small child

Hi! I’m Sara. Daughter of Ann and Andy. Older, bossy sister to Travis. I’m 47 (shocking to me, more shocking to my parents) and work as the marketing and branding director for Tacolicious, the Cal-Mex restaurant group that I own with my husband Joe. I started my career as an editorial assistant working on Williams Sonoma’s CD-ROM cookbook collection. Yes, a CD-ROM—a technological relic that proves how long I’ve been in this. Since then I’ve written for magazines, been an editor at some other magazines and published a few cookbooks. I have two boys Silas (16) and Moss (13) and a 17-year-old stepdaughter Mia and we live in the Castro in San Francisco, which means now nothing shocks my children. Turns out I really like teenagers. I also love cooking, dancing and drinking red wine. Often all together.

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Moss at 13 and Sara at 47 – on their recent trip to Japan

From Curry to Curry: A Generational Curiosity

The other day, inspired by a story in The New Yorker,” Mom asked me to list the dishes from my 70’s and early 80’s childhood that today I can’t live without. Not the most sentimental person, I had to think on it.

For a while.

In fact, I almost replied, “Not much.” But that would have been cruel. And partly untrue.

I made the mistake of first racking my brain for beloved childhood dinners. There was Mom’s “Chop Soupy,” a pile of tough strips of beef, canned straw mushrooms, green bell peppers and crunchy La Choy chow mein noodles on top all served over Uncle Ben’s minute rice. And a watery Southwestern pinto bean stew that, as a food snob in the making, I insisted on not eating which means Mom insisted on making it. I have little recollection of salads unless you count one made of apples mixed with mayonnaise. And then there was the piece de resistance—a shrimp curry recipe, acquired from Paula Dillemuth of our Baton Rouge Unitarian Church, hailing from an unbeknownst part of the world and made with Campbell’s canned cream of mushroom soup, turned bright yellow with curry powder, and topped with bananas, canned pineapple, peanuts and the kind of shredded sweetened coconut you put on a cupcake. I will admit that I kind of loved that curry then. But I also loved Olivia Newton John.

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Olivia Newton John in Grease in 1978

However, as soon as I started reminiscing about the classics, I felt the sigh of familial comfort, the Pavlovian longing Mom was hoping for. Dad’s flaky and crisp biscuits (see an update on today’s Andy’s Corner), lacy Swedish pancakes with honey, and fluffy, cheesy omelets. Mom’s moist and just-sweet-enough oatmeal chocolate-chip cake and springy angel food with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Perfect all-butter-crust apple pies.

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Grandmother and Great-Grandmother Annie’s Swedish Pancake

 

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Nana Ann’s Perfect All-butter Crust Apple Pie (recipe to come)

Looking back, the recipes that didn’t transcend time are the dishes mom and dad landed on by flipping through cookbooks, trying out something new. And while that curry might sound terrible in retrospect, it foreshadowed my parents’ propensity for cooking from a world pantry. Today, just peek into their cupboard, which overflows with everything from sumac to Sichuan peppercorns, to see it fully realized. Or get invited over for one of the delicious dinners of pozole or Vietnamese beef salad. Plus, the U.S. hadn’t really started to experience its true food revolution—the time when lemongrass would show up at Safeway, the cheese selection would go beyond orange Cheddar, and seasonality and regionality would get some of the respect they deserve. The food of the 70’s wasn’t their fault.

 

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Editor’s note: Surely Sara fondly remembers our wonderful fondue parties from the 70’s!

I inherited my parents’ openness to different foods. Flash forward to 1989. I moved to California to attend UC Santa Cruz where I got my first taste of sushi and on to San Francisco in 1993 where at 27, I wrote a cookbook on Asian vegetables. For that, Mom and Dad gamely tested recipes, gathering water spinach and galangal from their local Baton Rouge-based Vietnamese market. Long after they’d moved to Sonoma, I wrote the Tacolicious cookbook which gave them good reasons to pick up chilies and tortillas from the Mexican markets in Boyes Hot Springs. Sometimes, I feel like my parents and I came of culinary age together.

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Chapala in Sonoma: The Raggedys’ favorite Mexican market

Now it’s 2018 and Mom’s asking me what I fondly remember from my childhood dinner repertoire. Which, of course, makes me wonder what my kids in 30 years will answer if posed this question. Below, is a version of a recipe I make quite a bit. Coincidentally, it happens to be a curry, but this time I can tell you it’s of the Indian sort. And that I haven’t had a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup in my cupboard maybe ever.

Exed Campbells

Not to say my kids will be impressed with my regionality or feel any longing. They might take one look at it and shrug, “Meh,” the maddening three-letter word popular amongst the teens in this house. But my bigger hope is that by then they’ll have their own repertoire that reflects a culinary curiosity inherited from growing up in a house that serves up cold soba on one day and saltimbocca the next. And, like all guilt-inducing mothers, I’m going to want some damn credit for it!

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Moss and Silas got early encouragement with cooking and serving up and eating tasty food

In that spirit, I’d like to give a shout out to the people who made me curious about cooking and eating. Who made it the one thing that I love above all else. Who made me want to make a career out of it and write books about it and even enter the godforsaken restaurant industry for it. On the one-year anniversary of BigLittleMeals.com, I’d like to give big thanks to my Mom and Dad.

I’m sharing quick and simple recipes for chicken curry and roasted broccoli for today’s blog. Continue reading

The Raggedy Awards

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We did it!  Blogged for a year.

Some end-of-our-first-year-blogging thank-you’s are in order (I feel like I’m giving an Academy Awards speech):

The Raggedys Oscars

First: thanks to all who forwarded our blog to others who might be interested.  Please do it again and suggest they sign up to receive a notice when we post a new blog.

Second: thank you to everyone who responded to something we wrote.  It’s great to get feedback.

Third: thank you to everyone who tried a recipe (Here’s to you, TRICIA! :).  And we encourage y’all to do more home-cooking.  Research at the University of Washington indicates that “people who cook at home more often, rather than eating out, tend to have healthier overall diets without higher food expenses.”  Did we need research to tell us that?

Fourth: many thanks to our guest bloggers, David from Albuquerque and Moss from SF.  San Francisco and Albuquerque appear to produce folks with great food capabilities because 2 more bloggers from those wonderful cities are on our up-next-guest list.  You’ll enjoy their blogs.  If you have any interest in joining this awesome group, just send us an email.

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Thank you, Please, and I Love You!

Finally: thanks to everyone who put up with Andy’s humor, including me. 🙂  Wait till you read Andy’s Corner today; it may be his Hay Day.

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As you know, every year the Raggedys present the Raggedy Awards.  Yes, I hear you when you mention that we’ve just now blogged for a year and you’ve never heard of the Raggedy Awards, but, guaranteed,  this shall become a yearly and highly-anticipated tradition.  The Raggedy is a self-congratulatory thing between Andy and me.  He awards me with The Raggedy for my best blog and I award him The Raggedy for his best Andy’s Corner contribution.  And together we pick our favorite “Food for Thought” and our favorite food item of the year.

We’ve published about 45 blogs since our first one went out in May 2017.  Andy has written about 25 essays.  And we’re still together and having fun with this little food and life blog…well, most of the time 🙂

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Some of the time.

And now to the Awards Ceremony:

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The Raggedy for Andy’s Corner’s BEST goes to:

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The runner up for Andy’s Corner’s BEST is a tie between:

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The Raggedy for Ann’s BEST BLOG goes to:

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The runner up for Ann’s BEST BLOG is a tie between: 

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The Raggedy for FOOD FOR THOUGHT goes to:

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The runner up for FOOD FOR THOUGHT goes to:

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The Raggedy for OUR FAVORITE FOOD ITEM OF THE YEAR goes to:

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These Holsteins west of Petaluma, CA, appear to live an especially lovely life.

Admittedly, loving butter – and most dairy products – is a tricky push-pull kind of affair.  Temple Grandin, the fascinating Colorado State University researcher, has some disturbing insights in this Washington Post article.  The NYTimes gives another overview (informative and interesting – but also depressing) of the situation.  And those don’t even touch health issues: i.e. butter vs margarine (disclaimer: when my grandfather was in Congress he worked to protect the dairy industry by helping to get a law passed that required margarine served in restaurants to be shaped differently than butter; that was after agreeing to margarine being dyed to be the same color as butter – all in the Oleomargarine Tax Repeal of 1950.  Clearly one of the highlights of his Congressional service!).

So do we think of cows as Robert Louis Stevenson did in his lovely little poem, The Cow, from 1913  – or do we think of them as environment busters, destroying everything with their burps and farts?  Do we embrace butter – or reject it and everything else associated with cows?  Oh, please, don’t make me make that choice.

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The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.

At least for today we’re going to let butter be the star.  Andy’s birthday was yesterday, so, of course, we had a cake (clearly made with butter) to celebrate.  And we’ve looked through our recipes and picked our favorite butter-ish ones.   Continue reading

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