Monday, June 13, 2011

Avoid These!

Summer weekends, holidays, gathering of friends, travel… Sounds like an upcoming event? You bet! It’s the Father’s Day Bluegrass Music Festival at Grass Valley California! And, as far as I’m concerned, one of the top items, the important category to plan for, is the FOOD you will be enjoying while you’re there. (I’m rubbing my hands together just thinking about it!)
You’ll be bringing out all your diet-cheaters for this week. (Don’t lie!) Chips and dip. Thick marbled steaks for the barby. Homemade ice cream (You know who you are!). Salami, cookies, and all your favorite booze. And then, for your “cooking” day off, you’ll tour the strip and pick up a caramel mocha, Lazy Dog ice cream, and a big paper plate of biscuits and gravy. Yum!
But do consider, there is a dark side to some foods that make them either inappropriate or contraindicated for festival feasting. And that is where I, Dear Reader, hope to share with you from some of my experiences.

Foods to avoid at the Father’s Day Festival:

1. Oh, this one will be hard, I know. But really folks, try to avoid roasted garlic heads. Roasted or barbequed garlic heads are among my family’s favorite appetizers. You take a head of garlic, rub off some of the paper, slice off the top half-inch, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and either bake in a garlic roasting dish or throw on the slow side of the barbeque. When they are done, the tender little cloves are slightly caramelized and will pop right out of their paper wrappings. You can spread them like butter on toast or crackers, or you can just eat them plain. Wow! Food ecstasy. But it comes with a price. And as soon as the essential aromas hit your bloodstream, you’ll know it. And everyone around you will too. And everyone who follows you into the necessary room will too--for 24 hours. So all of your friends, at least the ones who didn’t share your garlics out of self-defense, will probably try to avoid the garlic bubble you have created around yourself. And that’s not fun, at a Bluegrass Music Festival. (Unless, of course, you are willing to put up with that in exchange for plenty of elbow room in the audience area.)

2. Candy. Oh, not ALL candy, just those little candies that come, each and every one of them, in their own special individual crackly paper, cellophane and foil wrappings. When my kids were young, Halloween was always a cause of despair for me. All four of them would fill their paper lunch bags with individually wrapped Halloween candy and then stash them. For about 5 days following, I was constantly picking up the papers, nagging and threatening. Finally, I got smart. I said, “For each candy paper I find not in the trash, I get to pick one candy from each of your bags.” Try it Parents; it works.
At a festival, I really enjoy a clean campsite. There is nothing that will destroy that quicker that a carpet of fluttering multicolor candy wrappers. Get a big bag of M&Ms or Skittles instead.

3. This tip is for Fair Food Row. You like deep fry? C’mon! You know you do, yeah! Those funnel cakes? Yesss! You knew that was what I was talking about. Well, do yourself a favor and buy the one funnel cake you have allotted yourself on the first day of the festival while the grease is fresh. I’ve had one on both ends, and believe me, the one on the front end is better.

4. I hesitate to mention this one, because you’ll bring it; everyone does. But there is a hazard to cooking it. The food is bacon, and the hazard is that everyone within smelling distance will show up. You can’t disguise that smoky, porky aroma. So if you do risk bringing some, just make sure you bring more.

So load up your ice chests with a few healthful vegetables (pre-washed) to ease the guilt and lots of your favorite foods and treats, put some cash in your pocket for a teriyaki plate and a cold one at Verne’s and you’ll have a great time!

Monday, June 6, 2011

ECO; aka "Edible Cake-like Object

I made an ECO for my daughter's birthday cake.

We've been trying a new way of eating around here. From what I understand it is some kind of Paleolithic-Primitive-Primal-Carnivore diet. In other words, no grains. Vegetables, yes. Grains, those things that man has modified from the wild seed, cultivated, harvested, threshed and ground to flour are out. This is sort of an experiment. We are seeing what it does for weight, health, and, ahem, bodily functions.

For a disclaimer, I have no qualms about doing up cakes and pies and breads and stuff for other people. In fact, I just made 2 graduation cakes for my kids' graduation party. And I even had a small piece. Yum!

But for Bethany's birthday cake (today) I was just feeling really creative. And she is not all that fond of regular cake anyway. So I decided to create an edible cake-like object for her special cake.

I decided to start with a cheese ball recipe. If there is one thing we are all mad about in this house, it's cheese. I tweaked it a bit and came up with these ingredients: shredded 3-cheese blend, shredded medium cheddar, low-fat cream cheese (neufchatel), bacon bits, green onion, garlic powder, mayonaise and dried onion flakes.

I lined a round dish with plastic wrap and pressed the cheese mixture into it, refrigerating it overnight. About an hour before serving, I turned it out onto a cake plate. I frosted it with more cream cheese and decorated it with... OK, I hate to admit that I actually bought some of this stuff. It is seductive and cute and tasty. It's... EASY CHEESE! It comes out of a spray can, like whipped cream, and the tip makes the product cute and curly. And we had the choice of two colors: Orange, and Bright Orange.

It was great fun. I had to resist the urge to hold it up, aim it at my mouth and let go at the trigger. At first we made fun of it, but we all had more respect for the stuff when Loreleigh read the ingredient list, and the first one listed was "cheddar cheese."

I made a little pastry bag and squirted some Easy Cheese into it so I could write the words with a fine line. Then, with a dash of inspiration, I accented the ECO with dried tomato "flowers" and fresh rosemary.

We served the ECO in thin wedges with Pink Lady apple slices and hot tea. A good time was had by all.