All the Spokane food-related stuff that I can't figure out how to wedge into my other blog.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Apple Charlotte recipes online

Email from Sister Bets...

From: Betsy Speare
Sent: Saturday, December 24, 2011 9:18 PM
Subject: Merry Christmas - Apple Charlotte Recipes on line!

Hello friends and family…

We are hoping this email finds you safe and warm and hugging  your closest family and friends.   The holiday season has been both sweet and sad this year as we have all been missing Mom (Char) and her delicious approach to making the holidays great.  So to celebrate her contribution,  Johnny (son of Char), Andy Camp (my fiancĂ©e) and Alex Wetmore (awesome friend) began working on a web site where we could look at Mom’s recipes.

Johnny found the recipes and gave them to Alex.  Andy saw the list and decided to build a website – he’s been a total saint taking my input which usually starts with “…Mom would hate that...”  Sort of hard to argue with.  Anyway – he’s got a big pile of ideas including the ability for us to add our own recipes (while still keeping mom’s pristine) as well as being able to add comments & pictures to the recipes as well as the website.

So here we are.  For me, the biggest gift will be seeing your comments and thoughts – which recipes you are using, why, how they turned out and what your favorites are.  I have a feeling this will be the part Mom is watching as well!   Just use the “share your thoughts” button on the right side…

In the 4 weeks or so since we’ve been working on it I’m finding myself using it 2-3 times a week and it’s been great!  The ingredient search is awesome and gives you good ideas.  Andy has added a “10 Random Recipe” button that gives you 10 of the over 1200 recipes we have online.    One disclaimer… we haven’t edited these recipes AT ALL – you’ll be a bit of a test kitchen – please send us any issues/problems you find and we’ll update the recipe.   Seriously – we used to giggle with Mom at some of the errors in her homemade cook books – she would just wave her hand and say – “oh you guys – you’ll be fine…” and she’s right – we will be…    Last, I considered recommending that Marty be the recipient of some of your cooking, but he’d kill me, so let’s just stick to the apple pies for him, unless it’s super low fat/low carb. J

For Christmas Dinner this year, we couldn’t bear to try to re-create Mom’s dinner, so Johnny and I agreed that Mom’s BBQ meatloaf would be the best idea for us…  let us know what you start using when you visit Apple Charlotte Cooking (click here!).

Consider this Mom’s Christmas Present to all of us…  we send you all our love and warm wishes…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

p.s.  please feel free to forward this to anyone you think might enjoy it, I’m sure I’ve missed some people.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back me up here

I have three Spokane food-related memories that I think most people don't believe. I'm looking for someone to back me up on these.

In order of believability.

#1 -- Peppers and onions used to be free toppings at Pizza Rita
This is the easiest one. I think that if you ask for it free, they'll still do this. I could be wrong, but they hooked me up on this deal recently... seems like less than 5 years ago. But back in the 90's when you ordered a pizza, "do you want free peppers and onions on that?" was a standard question they'd ask.

#2 -- Chicken liver bolognese at The Spaghetti Factory
The title says it all. I remember when we moved to Cheney in about 1977(?) or so and going to the Spaghetti Factory and Chicken liver bolognese was a standard menu item. I was psyched. I've had a thing for chicken livers since I was a wee lad. And I would be super psyched if that menu item came back as 40 year old.

#3 -- The old number 33 at The Onion: The Sundae Burger
Yep. Picture a bun with a hamburger patty, with a big scoop of ice cream covered in hot fudge, whipped cream, slivered almonds, and a cherry. Served open-faced. No one believes this one. My immediate family remembers it, because I was so excited to have such a perfect food: hot/cold, sweet/savory... And the waiters were always amazed that I actually ordered it, since it was basically a gag item stashed away on the menu. We're going back to the late 70's, early 80's on this one too.

Anyone remember any of these? My wife and daughter think I'm full of it. Especially on the #33.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Super fast awesome chili

I think the deal with proper chili is to use cheap, tough cuts and stew/braise them forever with chilies. And I dig that. But I also like to have a quick pot. Here's a variation of chili that I make with sausage. Super 1 has great, house-made, fresh sausage. I use their chorizo for this one. I always do a different chili thing but there's always a fresh pile and a dried pile of chilies.

My buddy Rachel gave me a handful of super hot little fresh chilies from her garden. I also have some fresh ones from my uncle. Since both Rachel's and Uncle Danny's chilies are so hot, I went with New Mexico dried chili for flavor.

If I get  a hold of pablanos, I roast/peel them, then use them.

This takes 15 minutes to get rolling. Once it's cooking, by the time you're done cleaning, you could eat it. But I like to simmer it for about an hour.

I have this for breakfast with a fried egg on top and a tortilla on the side. Yum.

Remove the chorizo (I've got 5 here) from their skin. Brown em.

While the sausage is browning, chop your stuff: fresh chilies, an onion, a bit of carrot. Don't chop up the dried pepper!

Chopped stuff.

Take the sausage out, but leave the grease in there and cook the peppers, onions, etc

When the onions get translucent, dump some beer or water or wine or stock in there. This is Coffee Joe beer.
Scrape the brown bits up.
Put sausage back in, dump a can of diced tomatoes in there. Beans are optional.  Add a bit more beer if you need to. Throw a bullion cube in there for good measure.
Simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chicken pot pie to go

Ready for the freezer. Then delivery. Then baking.
Whoa. Sorry for the lapse there. We're cooking as much as ever, but I've just not taken the time to blog about it.

One reason is that I am too lazy. So I'll do lazier posts. Instead of getting all crazy with recipes, methods, etc, I'll just lay out the basics. There's nothing here that isn't just basic down home cooking that can't be found with a quick search.

Anyway. We've got 3 friends that just recently had a kid. That is: three couples. Each couple recently and unrelatedly had a kid. We're making a chicken pot pie for two of the families. That is: one pie, each for each of two families. The third will get a sack of Zip's burgers.

This is as easy as it gets for super comfort home-cooking radness. It's made even easier by breaking up the tasks across a few days and sharing the workload.

Lots of pics!

Day 1 - Stock n Roast
Buy a whole chicken. Always. It's such a bargain: you get the bird for at least half the price per pound than you pay for any single part. AND you get liver, bones, and all sorts of goodness for stock making. Sometimes I'll buy skin-on, bone-in thighs, but 88% of the time, I just buy the whole bird.

Cut it up in 8 pieces: two wings (chop off the ends for stock), two legs, two thighs, two breasts. Chop the back in half. Save the liver.

Roast it: salt and pepper the wings, thighs, legs, breasts. Leave the skin on. Put them in a roasting pan and roast at 400-425F. Go about 12 minutes, then turn them. Let them go for another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, stock: heat up a pot on the stove top, find some aromatics. Put a bit of canola in the pot and let it get hot. Sear the backs in the oil until they are brown on all sides.

Dump the aromatics in with a couple quarts of water, bring it to a boil and turn it to a hearty simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Skim off the fat. Pour the whole lot through a sieve to save the stock.

Back to the roasting stuff: take the chicken out of the roasting pan and pour the fat out of the pan. Put the pan on the stove top over medium heat and scrape up the bits with a wooden scraper. Pour about 1 cup of wine, or beer, or water into the pan. Heat + wet + wooden scraper: cleans the bits up perfectly. Dump this pan dripping (along with bits) into the stock you just finished.

When the chicken is cool, bone it and then chop it up. Skin and all.

Day 2 - Make the pot pie filling
You've done the hard part. Now just put it all together, warm it up, season it, and thicken it.

Find and chop some aromatics. Ideally, a couple stalks of celery, a couple carrots, and an onion. We didn't have any celery and the only onion we had was a Walla Walla. So, I went with leeks and celery instead. Heat up a pot with a bit of olive oil and get those guys going. You can always chop up bacon at this point too -- makes a nice little chewy treat in there when all is said and done.

Potato is optional, but we had one, so I peeled it, chopped it up, made a mental note to add a touch more salt at the end, and threw it in there too.

Make a roux too. Since I was making two pies (I had to add another 2 cups of stock from our freezer to what's mentioned above), I ended up with about 1/4 cup + a bit of butter and 1/4 cup + a bit of flour. If I wasn't rushed, I would've let the roux go a bit longer to darken it a bit more. I love the smell of roux -- smells like butterscotch.

Once the aromatics start to soften a bit, dump your stock and chicken bits in there. I simmered this until the potatoes were *just* toothsome -- they'll cook a bit more during baking. Now is the time to season. Salt and pepper is all you need. If I had fresh rosemary or thyme, I'd have tossed some of that in there.

Pour off a few ladles of the broth into your roux pot, then dump the roux into your soup to make it a filling. The crust will soak up moisture and so will the potatoes, so don't go all gravy at this point. Back of spoon test should show nice cling, but dripping.

Pull it off the stove, dump it in a thin metal bowl and add frozen veggies (beans, peas, carrots, whatever) to help it cool. Put the bowl in a sink with ice and cool it quickly and package it up for day 3.

Day 3 - Have a Jedi Crust Maker hook you up.

Liza has turned into a crust pro. Find a pro or become one. But don't dump this mixture into a store-bought "shell." It requires a rad crust.

If the crust thing is just not going to happen. Then go biscuits. Preheat oven to 425 F. Dump your filling into a cast iron pan, warm it up a bit on the stove, then cover the top with biscuit dough, in pieces or rolled out. Then bake it.

Otherwise, take care of business and do the dough deed.

Fill the dough with filling.

Top the dough. make it pretty.

Freeze it. And give it all away.

To eat: preheat oven to 425 and bake for at least an hour. Watch for over-browning of the crust after 40 minutes or so. Cover the edges with tinfoil to keep browning at bay.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paella over the fire

Whoa Nelly.

Stine and Lynn came up to the river. Stine pulled off the best camp fire dinner I've ever had.


I didn't get the detailed method but basically: sear the chicken in the pan over the hot coals until brown, then add aromatics, broth/stock, rice and cook slowly. There's some spice thing going on there that I didn't get. And there was even one local morel diced up in there.  Good eats.

We're inspired to try a stewed beef dish tonight on the coals. More on that later.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Boyds Country Inn: "Trekkies and Testes"

Yes. Those are deep fried beef testicles.
There's a lot going for Boyd's Country Inn:
  • They have free WiFi. At the edges of Ferry County, this is rare bird.
  • They have Northern Ales beer on tap. It's the Amber, which is my least favorite, but the thought is nice. They should run the lager.
  • They have deep-fried bull testicles (in season only -- which, apparently is spring. They buy a bunch, have a testicle festival, then freeze the rest).
  • They play rad movies on the TV above the bar. To wit: today, it's Star Wars. 'Nuff said.
  • It's the closest boozer to the river place (4 miles).
Btw: "Trekkies and Testes" was what the owner said after I praised the menu + TV entertainment  she was spinning. Natural born marketer there.
Yes. That is C3P0 on TV.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I just had to find a place for this picture. Maddie nailed the technique on this marshmallow.

Thankfully I have this blog.

But generally, the color on these marshmallows is noteworthy.

Megan. Rightfully proud of her nicely colored 'mallow.

Note the pinky. A true gourmand.

Nice blistering.

Liza's charred 'mallow is more the norm, truth be told.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

High heat

As we eat more meat, I am getting more into cooking. Weird how that works. When it comes to meat, I'm really into the sear, which requires a lot of heat to really pull off well.

I've been obsessed with heat before. Years ago when we lived on the west side of the state, I figured out a great quick super hot grilling solution where I used a camping stove under a Lodge cast iron grill pan. I mainly used it for fish.

Lately I've been trying to figure out how to cook tri-tip steaks quickly and yummily. At heart, I'm a cheap bastard, so tri-tips appeal to me because they're usually around $5/lb. If they're cut thick, I'll butterfly them to around an inch or so.

In my opinion, the tri-tip should be seared over a screaming hot fire for about 3 minutes a side. Then let it rest. And slice it against the grain. Piled on bread or over a salad, it's pretty good.
Click for big: dig that char baby! What a difference serious heat makes.

The problem is that in the last 10 years, I've gotten rid of all of my high-heat-makers: I got rid of a hibachi, a small "brazer" grill, and a small Weber kettle. And I can't find that Lodge cast iron grill pan either.

So, today, I made an inferno cooker in the back yard. I don't think this is a good idea as the weather dries out, but the mulch under the bricks is still damp for now. In any case, it raged. With one measly chimney full of briquettes, I had a super hot surface.
I charred some peppers and made a salsa. Then I made the tri-tips, which I rubbed with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and garlic. Then I grilled asparagus, Brady style. And toasted some English muffins.
I love cooking over that kind of heat. The peppers just blistered and crackled as soon as I put them down. Nice.

I may have to do a butterflied chicken tomorrow on the big Webber. Maybe with a Mexican angle so we can stuff it in tortillas and have a reason to eat the salsa we made tonight.

I wish Lodge made a bigger, shallower version of their hibatchi.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wood Sorrel

I grew up munching on this wild green that grows all over the California bay area. We had it growing in our yard in San Jose, CA, where I lived until I was 8. On hot days, my friends and I would eat stalk after stalk. My mom called them "agrodolce," which is Italian for bitter sweets. Apparently they are common in Italy too.

Now I've come to know this wild green as Wood Sorrel. It is a tart and juicy little plant that's very thirst quenching. The leaves and flowers are edible as well. Oxalic acid (think rhubarb) makes it sour, and you wouldn't want to eat pounds of it because it would destroy your tooth enamel and might give you a gut ache.

Good in salads, on sandwiches, or make a soup with it. Otherwise, if you're on a ride this spring/summer, give it a try. Disclaimer: do some research and never eat something you cannot positively identify! I wouldn't want you to eat something toxic! A helpful, but not definitve guide from Landscape America.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

70th Annual Kosher Dinner

The dinner and apps:
Beef brisket, spiced apples, carrot tzimmes and potato knishes, dill pickles, pickled herring, 3 bean salad

The dessert: Apricot kuchen, chocolate rugelach


The talented acts, to entertain while you wait:

The Mavens, The Vogel Brothers, Sam Adams, Chutzpah! and more
The happy patrons:

Liza, Elissa, Beth
You cannot put on a benefit dinner for 70 years running without mastering the food, entertainment, and all the many event details. Even so, mastering the details does not have to mean a stellar event. I have been to similar events, but lacking the heart of the Kosher Dinner, these other events were real bores.

Temple Beth Shalom's Kosher Dinner is a fundraising event with heart and so much soul. The food is amazing, the entertainment makes you smile and tap your feet, and the volunteers can't wait to help and welcome you.

If you missed the dinner this year, a steal for $15, then make sure you go next year. Bring some friends and carpool (or ride your bike) to TBS for some Jewish soul food. If you'd like to learn more, TBS recommends

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Making our kitchen more useful

Over the years, I figured out that I need a lot of counter-mess space when I cook. And I like to have stuff close by. I hate rummaging through stacks of pots, pans, cooking sheets, whatever -- when I'm trying to cook. It can put me in a foul mood and makes cooking less fun.

But when we moved into our current house, I wasn't cooking much and didn't care a lot about the kitchen, other than to make sure it met some minimum counter space requirements and that it had a hood to vent smoke.

As for high-zoot kitchens, I don't really care about bling in the kitchen. But it would rule to have a bad ass BlueStar range and a more powerful hood that could actually suck up the smoke from a properly seared hunk of meat. We are definitely going to install a better hood, but I'm too cheap to spring for the high-zoot stove. For now.

Last weekend made a wonderful change to our little kitchen nook. Until recently, it was Maddie's desk and drawing area. Now it's a place for more counter space and a place to hang the pans that were stacked under cabinets and in our downstairs pantry.

My buddy, Glen, is a wizard with anything made of metal. He had this solid piece of steel rod in his shop. He welded a chunk of stainless chain to it, and voila! A bad-arse, no-nonsense pot rack. I dig it.

Under the table, there is space to store the big pots that were also previously downstairs.

Next, I'm going to angle for a little shelf space.

The new change is great. And super simple and cheap.

The desk/table thing we have is just the right size for a hunk of marble we had laying around and a big cutting board from my mom's stash. The marble is great for setting hot pans aside when we're in the thick of cooking. The cutting board is in a great spot: good light from the windows and out of the way of anyone else in the kitchen.