50s Food is Pretty Tasty!


Or so said Todd, midway through my latest Junior League cookbook week. I’m not exactly inclined to disagree, either!

Monday we met up with friends at George and Louie’s for a much-needed catch-up session. Considering the restaurant has a retro feel with it’s sign and it’s music, I’m going to say that it was a happy accident to make it fit in with the rest of the week (well, most of it).

Italian Pizza Pie with Savory String Bean Salad

Italian Pizza Pie with Savory String Bean Salad

Tuesday kicked off the tour through the original River Road Recipes (affiliate link), published in 1959, with Italian Pizza Pie and Savory String Bean Salad. Like last time, I’m including the images of the recipes rather than typing them out because part of the undeniable charm of these sorts of cookbooks is the look of them. Transcribing them just insn’t enough!

River Road Recipes, page 89

River Road Recipes, page 89

Yes, pizza night, and the pizza was very good for being a simple ground beef and cheese combo. While the recipe called for roll mix (and I’d originally planned to use gluten-free Bisquick for that step), I ended up buying the Schar gluten-free pizza crusts. I’ve had their bread before and it was a little iffy, but these pizza crusts were amazing! It may have helped that I added garlic olive oil to the crust, some of which seeped through the docking marks, meaning the bottom of the crust “fried” in the olive oil as it baked, but whatever. I’m definitely buying those crusts again.

River Road Recipes, page 34

River Road Recipes, page 34

The side dish was the real surprise. It was a bed of lettuce topped with dressed green beans, topped with egg salad. But that egg salad, though. It had bacon in it. I’m pretty sure I’ve made egg salad sandwiches somewhere in my past that had bacon on top, but this was very next-level. If you like bacon and egg salad, chop up some bacon and added to the egg salad next time and let it sit for a bit before eating it. Trust me.

Lemon Pork Chops + Eggplant Supreme

Lemon Pork Chops + Eggplant Supreme

Wednesday was another winner of Lemon Pork Chops and Eggplant Supreme.

River Road Recipes, page 84

River Road Recipes, page 84

Making some rice or noodles would not have gone amiss with the very tomato-ey Lemon Pork Chops, as there was a fair amount of gravy left over.

River Road Recipes, page 55

River Road Recipes, page 55

Eggplant is rather hit-or miss for Todd, but I keep searching for ways to prepare it that he might like. This Eggplant Supreme was a surprise win with the celery, bell peppers, and cheese. The bits of Worcestershire and hot sauces weren’t super-strong, but they definitely added a little something to the dish!

Thursday was a bit of a rough day at the office, resulting in a tension headache that just wouldn’t go away until sometime after 8pm. I didn’t feel up to cooking, so Todd picked up sushi for us.  Maybe not the standard headache “cure” but it worked for me, that night!

Shrimp Floridian en Papillote + Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream

Shrimp Floridian en Papillote + Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream

Friday I was back in the kitchen with a little Shrimp Floridian en Papillote (try saying that without a Justin Wilson accent, I dare ya!) along with some Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream.

River Road Recipes, page 113

River Road Recipes, page 113

Usually en papillote would have me making parchment paper packets but this recipe just called for cooking it in a covered dish. You will not see me complaining about this fact. The combination of blue cheese, cream cheese, garlic, and white wine (a Florida muscadine wine, because we had it in the fridge) was quite good, and could have easily been a topping for pasta or the baked potatoes we had with it.

River Road Recipes, page 60

River Road Recipes, page 60

Now, why would we feel the need to have a recipe for baked potatoes–isn’t that pretty simple and straight-forward? Yes, but there was something special about the sour cream mix, namely the addition of celery salt and a little hot sauce. It wasn’t a lot, but it did change the overall flavor of the topping in a very tasty way.

Pot Roast in Red Wine + Sour Cream Noodles

Pot Roast in Red Wine + Sour Cream Noodles

This past Saturday was the first in a long time that I got to just spend at home, working in my pjs in The Abyss, and not having to go into Tallahassee, since the beginning of July. It was heaven. So was the Pot Roast in Red Wine and the accompanying Sour Cream Noodles.

River Road Recipes, page 79

River Road Recipes, page 79

I usually do anything pot roast-related in the slow cooker for ease and consistency. I stuck to the stove top this time and took my luxury of time at home to let it cook nice and slow for a few hours. Worth. It. I’m not 100% sold on baking the noodles for an hour (I think I did just 30 minutes), but the combo of the sour cream noodles and the rich pot roast gravy was reminiscent of beef stroganoff, so yeah. Very tasty.

Sunday Night Quickie

Sunday Night Quickie

If Saturday was my day home to play, Sunday was the make-up day as I made my pilgrimage to the old office for a couple of hours. But I had an ulterior motive as there was a planner meet-up that afternoon that I wanted to go to. This meant I didn’t get home until after 6, though, so something called a Sunday Night Quickie sounded like a good supper option.

River Road Recipes, page 71

River Road Recipes, page 71

Essentially it’s scrambled eggs on toast but mixing in a can of chicken noodle soup? Color me intrigued. It was surprisingly tasty and not overly salty like I thought it might have been. Go figure. Breakfast for dinner is nothing new around here. of course, which is why I felt semi-confident about putting it on the menu in the first place. I think, were I ever to make this one again, I might opt for some grilled tomato slices on the side or something just to brighten up the plate.

So that wraps up our trek through the 50s, or does it? I never got to the poultry chapter and there were plenty of other intriguing recipes–do I stay in the 50s for my next week in the kitchen or shall I turn the clock back further? Time will tell!

Review | She Cooks, She Scores by Jennifer F Stoker



***This is a sponsored post. I was provided a copy of She Cooks, She Scores for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own and no other compensation has been received. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…***

Food-based memoir, on the surface, should be an easy mark to hit. After all, everyone eats and many people are able to tie certain strong memories to the food they enjoyed at those times. Home cooking, soul food, amazing dinners out, it all connects us on some level. And since I love hearing the stories behind the food, I was really looking forward to enjoying Stoker’s She Cooks, She Scores when it arrived.

Todd always likes it when I get new review cookbooks in–he likes to pull new dinner ideas out of them as much as I do–but when I asked him if he’d found anything interesting in Scores (he’d gotten to it before I did), he said it was more frou-frou food. And after flipping through the first few sections, you’d think a better title for the book would be ‘My Love Affair with Lobster.’ The men don’t last, but her main ingredient takes center stage for many early recipes. Granted, she was in New England for most of The Ex’s and proximity could have informed her choices just as much as pretension. But when Stoker refers to a soon-to-be ex’s family home as a mansion or specifies that she grabbed a bottle of Evian (as opposed to just bottled water) to put out a grease fire you get the sense that Stoker did not come from humble beginnings and is not necessarily interested in appealing to the wider, middle-class demographic.

Fair enough, we all have our niche, right?

The stories that accompany the clusters of recipes are entertaining but cringe-worthy. I think she was going for a Sex and the City vibe, but it came across as more of a confessional blog entry. A couple of beta readers or maybe even a ghost-writer could have helped refine each lengthy story into a salacious anecdote and moved the book along at a faster clip, letting the recipes take center stage. There were also some inconsistencies between stories that bothered me–an example would be her first catering job for a soon-to-be ex’s mother where she was so unprepared as to forget the marinade for the chicken and grabbed a wine cooler from the hostess’s fridge as a substitute. But much later in the book she refers to the wine cooler marinade as an experiment inspired by Chef Michael Symon’s out-of-the-box thinking on food. Sure, you could spin it that way, but be consistent.

Speaking of the food, how are the recipes?

We tried out a couple that were suitable for during-the-week dinners and were overall pleased with the results but not wowed. The dish names read more like the description on a restaurant menu which could scare less adventurous cooks away and often involve multiple parts and preparations. Also, while each recipe is listed in the Table of Contents in the order it appears in the book, there is no Index at the back of the book whatsoever–something I don’t think a cookbook should be without. Instead we get a page of “Jenn-ism Glossary” entries, only a handful of which appear in the book, and most of which have nothing to do with food. The food photography throughout the book (along with styled photos of the author created for the book and personal photos from the author’s past) really are lovely and certainly whet the appetite. The layout and design of the book is also first-rate–it’s a beautiful book, aesthetically speaking.

Stuffed Italian Chicken (p.12)

Stuffed Italian Chicken (p.12)

The Stuffed Italian Chicken recipe is one she created before ever considering culinary school (and the realization of her “God-given talent for cooking”). It utilizes light beer as a marinade and red wine in the sauce, and includes raisins in the cheese-based filling. There was far too much sauce for the 4 chicken breasts but other than that the end result was pleasant enough. (I opted not to use the liquid smoke called for in the marinade ingredients as I’m not a big fan of it.)

Stoker Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, Caramelized Red Onion Bits, and a Fried Egg (p.155)

Stoker Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, Caramelized Red Onion Bits, and a Fried Egg (p.155)

A prime example of long recipe names that are really descriptions, Stoker Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, Caramelized Red Onion Bits, and a Fried Egg is based on a similar salad she experienced a Chef Symon’s restaurant shortly after finishing at the CIA. While the dressing was a little vinegary for Todd’s taste, I was thrilled with the bacon dressing and how it just began to wilt the spinach as it was being served. And, of course, top anything with a fried egg and I’m usually on board.

While the larger part of the book is dedicated to stories of failed relationships and the recipes that survived them, she does bookend them with stories and food related to family and friends–both of which are more approachable overall. Chapter 5, “Happy Endings,” was of particular interest to me as readers of this blog know I’ve recently had to cut out a lot of ingredients from my own diet to improve my digestive health. This chapter mentions Stoker’s own food intolerances (diary and gluten) and how it changed her view on food and cooking in general.

“Being a chef and unable to tolerate any dairy products is the most horrible thing in the world.”

She Cooks, She Scores, page 172

Well, that might be a bit of hyperbole, especially with substitutions so readily available, but she goes on to label dairy as “unhealthy.” That sort of blanket statement really grates against the all things in moderation mantra, as these items are only unhealthy in excess to the general population. It’s that sort of ingredient x-is-evil kind of mentality that is creating the skewed, misinformed population that succumbs to the twisted marketing practices of larger food manufacturers, and something I would hope any chef would want to steer clear of, not feed. Furthermore, I think Stoker could have served her audience better by including substitution ideas in the footnotes of each recipe throughout the book rather than just this one brief chapter.

Looking at She Cooks, She Scores I see a lot of potential. Unfortunately it just missed the bar for me. I know other people have enjoyed her stories immensely, so I may be in the minority for finding them more aggravating than amusing. The recipes suffer from unwieldy names that may turn off some cooks, but the food underneath them is good. I think had it been given another edit or two this book would have been the book Stoker wanted, but like a cake taken out of the oven too soon, it’s still a bit underdone in the middle.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

Everyday Adventures

Have I got news for you?!

Actually, it’s more like a confession…

Did you know…

I’m Gauche!

But not just any old gauche, oh no, the lovely ladies at Gauche Alchemy have decided I’m just the right kind of gauche to join the GA Team as a blog writer! I’d be speechless, but that wouldn’t fit this group!

Actually, I’ve known about this for a week, now, but couldn’t breathe word one. Do you know how tough it is for me to keep the good kind of secrets? Really tough. Like maybe as tough as it is for me to resist the basket of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs in the living room that I am *not* getting up to go pilfer between paragraphs.

Starting later this month I get the pleasure of writing up projects from the Alchemists (that’s what they call the Design Team members) and even toss in a few projects of my own from time to time.

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited about this!!!

I mean, how could I *not* with badges like these:

Which do you think I should put in the sidebar on permanent display?

Now, for those of you who know exactly what-all I’ve got going on, you’re probably wondering just how I have time to take on something else?

Well, that leads me to Page 2, as Paul Harvey would say.


What to Feed Your Raiding Party is getting closer and closer to being absolutely, true-blue, in-print done! I still have to lay out the actual pages–and that’s no small task, I admit–but that’s pretty much ALL that’s left. Compared to everything else I’ve done for this book in the past 2+ years, the layout is just details.

I’m not quite ready to announce a street-date or even open up pre-orders just yet, but if you’ve been curious about the cookbook or are planning to order a copy, make sure to either subscribe to the progress blog over at whattofeedyourraidingparty.com or Like the Facebook Fan Page so you don’t miss any of the big announcements that are coming up soon!

But wait, there’s more!


Because I firmly believe the best things come in threes, I have one more piece of news to share. This one is pretty time-sensitive, too. On April 28, 2012, I’ll be hosting the Helper Monkey version of the 

Great American Bake Sale

to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

If you’ll be in the Tallahassee area that day, make sure to stop by our table at the Market Square Farmer’s Market and pick up a sweet treat and do good at the same time. If you’re not in the Tallahassee area, check out the Bake Sale map and find one in your area (or sign up to host one, yourself!). Or, none of those options work for you, would you consider making a donation on our team page? After all…

$1 can help provide a hungry child with 10 healthy meals.
$4 can help provide a child facing hunger with a backpack full of healthy food over a weekend when school meals are not available.
$9 can help connect a child with healthy lunches during summer when school is out.
$35 can help a child care center provide free afterschool snacks and suppers to at-risk children all year long.
$65 can provide a grab-n-go breakfast cart to an elementary school so that every student starts every school day with a healthy meal.

Thanks a million!

My Week With Quinoa


Quinoa Cuisine by Harlan & Sparwasser

For the past week Todd and I have been trying out recipes from Jessica Harlan & Kelley Sparwasser’s Quinoa Cuisine cookbook. Last night, as we dined on pizzas made with quinoa pizza crusts and red quinoa tamales, we joked that it was like being on a week-long Iron Chef, hold the shark-fin ice cream.

Cookbooks that focus on a single ingredient tend to fall into 2 types: the really awesome and the easily forgettable. Fortunately, Quinoa Cuisine falls into the really awesome camp.

First Some Background

If you’ve never tried quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) before, it looks something like couscous but it closer to rice and other grains in nutrients, though really it’s the seed of a plant in the spinach and beet family. Quinoa was revered by the ancient Incans as the “mother crop” and it boasts double the protein and fiber of white rice and 10 times the calcium. The “cost,” of course, is a few more calories per serving (222 compared to white rice’s 169, per cup), but being such a filling food, it’s 50 calories I’m willing to spend. It’s also one of the few plant-foods that counts as a complete protein (containing all 8 essential amino acids).

And if that’s not enough, white quinoa (it also comes in red and black), takes only 10 minutes or so of simmering and 5 minutes of sitting to be ready-to-go. Compare that with white or, especially, brown rice!

We’d tried quinoa as a rice-substitute in the past, but that’s all we ever did with it. This book uses not only the quinoa in it’s usual form but also quinoa flour and quinoa flakes (similar to quick oatmeal, only more delicate).

What About the Recipes?

I had a merry old time reading through the book and flagging all the recipes that I wanted to try. Just on the first pass I flagged 33 of the 150 recipes, and managed to fit 12 of them into this past week of dinners (it helps that Easter dinner was this weekend, I could slip in some delectable desserts that we normally wouldn’t try in a “normal” week).

Pumpkin Waffles with butter and syrup

After having to head to 4 stores before tracking down the quinoa flour and flakes (thank you, Earth Fare!), we started our quinoa odyssey with Pumpkin Waffles. The quinoa flour has a distinct scent—earthy is the best I can come up with at the moment—and it doesn’t 100% go away when the dish is finished. The waffles were dense (not a bad thing) and could have used more spice than the recipe called for, but were quite tasty when the usual butter and syrup were applied.

Dal with Kale Quinoa

Another night we tried something from the Vegetarian chapter: Dal [lentils] with Kale Quinoa. We used it as a side-dish but it could have easily stood on it’s own and the wilted kale mixed into the white quinoa was a fun textural and taste change.

Horseradish Sour Cream-Crusted Tilapia with Creamed Spinach

The Horseradish and Sour Cream-Crusted Tilapia was the first dish we had using the quinoa flakes: they were sprinkled over the top of the sour cream mixture before going into the oven. They neither browned nor turned crunchy, the way bread crumbs would have, but instead almost melted into the creamy coating and bulked up what could have been a too-slick topping. The Creamed Spinach (with white quinoa) was a fun change from the usual recipe, though mine turned out a little on the soupy side. Cutting the broth down will be an easy fix the next time we make it.

Grilled Pizza with Peaches, Prosciutto and Arugula and Red Quinoa Tamales

Since quinoa is gluten-free (you may have seen quinoa pasta or other baked goods in the specialty section of your local grocery store), making Quinoa Pizza Dough meant also adding some wheat flour to get the right consistency and lift. While the quinoa flour was supposed to add a slight nuttiness to the crust, we didn’t really notice a difference, but the finished Grilled Pizza with Prosciutto, Grilled Peaches, and Arugula didn’t have us complaining at all. The Red Quinoa Tamales were very good, too. My corn husks must have been a bit on the small side, though, as I had 18 when finished, instead of the 12 the recipe cited as the yeild. Still, not a bad thing to have more of, right?

The Real Test: My Family

Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad with Line Dressing

I didn’t tell my family that pretty much everything I was making for Easter supper included quinoa. Mom knew that the salad (Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad with Lime Dressing) had quinoa in it, but she didn’t know that the appetizers did, too, (Quinoa, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Fritters with Horseradish-Yogurt Sauce) and all 3 desserts, as well!

Quinoa, Blue Cheese and Bacon Fritters with Horseradish-Yogurt Sauce

My family isn’t necessarily picky, but when it comes to holiday dinners they aren’t exactly adventurous, either. Much to my surprise, the quinoa salad was well-received and a lively discussion on the merits of quinoa ensued.

The real test, though, were the desserts. We made the Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake, the Lemon-Glazed Pound Cake and the Quinoa Carrot Cake, all with 100% quinoa flour.

Lemon Glazed Pound Cake, Quinoa Carrot Cake, Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake

The pound cake was the least favorite—it was dense (as pound cakes usually are, but a bit more so) and the lemon wasn’t quite strong enough to overcome the slightly off taste of the quinoa flour. The chocolate cake was incredibly light and moist, in comparison, and really carried itself well—Todd could taste the difference but, to me, it just seemed like a dark chocolate cake (which is what it was).

The Quinoa Carrot Cake was the favorite of everyone, though. Oh, man, this was one excellent carrot cake. Now, true, the cream cheese butter cream frosting certainly helped (her version called for maple flavoring but I had hazelnut in the cabinet and used that, instead), but the cake, itself, was super-moist and super-flavorful and, yes, you could taste the difference from the quinoa flour but it really worked for this recipe.

Over all, we thoroughly enjoyed our week feasting on quinoa in it’s various forms and are looking forward to trying out some of the other recipes in the book. If you’ve never tried quinoa, yourself, give it a whirl.

FCC Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Quinoa Cuisine by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.