Sunday, October 12, 2008

Late Night Snack, Pt. 2

No horror story, this time... yet.

When I was young, tuna fish was one of the staples of kid birthday parties on my circuit. Tuna on crackers (we loved the moms who used Ritz crackers instead of saltines :-) or on soft white bread cut into squares or triangles usually sat nestled among a bowl of chips, the cake with the crunchy, colorful decorations, and punch which was usually kicked up tropical punch kool-aid (all red kool-aids are NOT equal!).

But, when my cousins, sister, and I got older, we realized eating the tuna fish was one thing. Opening it and having the smell on your hands was quite another. We abandoned tuna fish once we learned to make chicken salad which was basically the same recipe with chicken breasts and no smell. We also abandoned the practice of baking cakes and applying the decorations. I used to love the anticipation created by smelling that birthday cake baking. Now, amongst my sometimes-bougie set of friends, my suggestion that I bake my son's birthday cake is met with horror.

The other day at work, one of the psychologists on my hall brought tuna for lunch. She had her door open and the scent wafted down the hallway. Rather than being turned off, I suddenly had a craving for tuna. I picked up some Friday night. And a little while ago I "made tuna fish" for the first time in forever. I think what my family eats/makes is probably properly called tuna salad, but we don't say that.

Anyway, I put in Miracle Whip (I'm not touching that black people don't eat mayonnaise thing, but at my house, well, we didn't :-), sweet pickle relish, a little sugar, and chopped up bits of 1) a granny smith apple 2) red onion and 3) boiled eggs. My mom also uses Kraft Sandwich Spread, but my lazy ass figures with the pickle relish, who needs it?

Y'all, that was the best thing ever! How could I have forgotten? I'm about to run out for Ritz crackers in a minute, I swear.

But my late night snack has me thinking about all the ways people jazz up basic foods. I mean, a few weeks ago I was looking for a new mac and cheese recipe, came across a approximately a thousand, and used one that was absolutely horrible. I also experiment a lot with my spaghetti sauce and tacos.

So what common/basic food do you add a little somethin'-somethin' extra to? I'd really like to know because I'm always trying new things. And though I've been HORRIBLE about responding to my commenters this semester, I love y'all and I promise I'm reading, so please share your ideaas.


Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

When I make chili, I put it on tAtor tots with shredded cheese or over nacho chips with nacho cheese. (Either way, I don't eat hotdogs and my chili, a meat only chili, is not bowl worthy.) I ALWAYS add chopped fresh tomatos on top of the tator tots or nachos! I won't go near a can of pork 'n beans without brown sugar and mustard. I put a slice of American cheese on red beans and rice. Oatmeal gets cinnamom AND pecans. And I'll barely touch a hamburger unless you grill some onions on it.

Does Miracle Whip taste different than mayo? I HATE mayo. (It's my least favorite food on Earth. I will not touch to stuff and would rather starve.) I don't like chicken or tuna salad, but if I make a potato salad, I use sour cream instead. What does Miracle Whip taste like?

elle said...

First of all, congratulations! You are one of the people I've been meaning to respond to.

Your chili is from scratch? And I can imagine how good it is with cheese.

Two things I can agree with you on--hotdogs (and my mom claims it was my "birthmark" because she ate them nonstop while she was pregnant with me) and fresh tomatoes. I will eat a Bryan wiener sometimes (my sister hipped me to that, otherwise I just didn't eat them), but my chili dogs are bun, chili, cheese, onion, and sweet pickle relish.

And tomatoes, my God! All summer long, I craved onion, avocado and tomatoes or pico de gallo on everything. I don't even make guacamole much--just avocado on nachos, tacos, cheeseburgers, etc. It has become one of my favorite... fruits(I think?).

Your pork n' beans recipe sounds like my mom's baked beans recipe. Pork n Beans, brown sugar, ketchup mustard, onion, a good stir and bake.

I'm laughing at how much we have in common--my oatmeal gets cinnamon and sugar and I'm such an onion freak, that I order grilled and fresh onion on my hamburgers. What the hell is a hamburger with no onion?

Miracle Whip is noticeably different from mayo, but I'm not sure it's enough to make you want to eat it. My mom, though HATES mayonnaise but adores miracle whip, so who knows?

Do you make white or yellow (mustard) potato salad? If it's white, do you have to use quite a bit of sour cream? I make yellow, so I think I might try substituting sour cream for miracle whip to see how that works. Sounds intriguing.

k8 said...

Fwiw, I'm a fan of german potato salad because it doesn't use mayonnaise. I prefer the oil/vinegar/broth combo.

For me it isn't so much a matter of tweaking the classics as using really good ingredients when making them. For example, when making brownies I use high quality dutch-processed cocoa. I always use good real vanilla extract. I try to use fresh herbs in my cooking. It makes a huge huge difference.

In the way of actual tweaking, sometimes I substitute some whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour) for the all-purpose stuff when I'm baking to ratchet up the whole grain goodness. Actually, I play with types of flours all the time in my bread baking. I prefer wheat and whole grain breads, particularly crusty european-style breads, to the basic white bread I grew up eating.

By the way, those people should be embarrassed that they don't make homemade cakes for birthdays. While there is one local bakery that makes cakes I'm fond of, I almost always prefer homemade. Plus, I know what's in them. And there is nothing quite like a homemade angelfood cake - that stuff most grocery stores have isn't close to the real thing.

elle said...

Hi, k8,

Thanks for putting up with my absences :-)

You know I have to look up the recipe for German potato salad now, right?

Re: flour. I've just begun to tiptoe into baking over the last year or so, and I'm deathly afraid of moving away from the sifted all-purpose flour many recipes call for. It really is okay to do that?

I've used fresh cilantro, parsley, and sage. I want to use more--particularly rosemary (which i just discovered I LOVE this year. I've often smelled it in food and not known for sure what it was) and oregano. But I look at Ina Garten's and Paula Deen's herb gardens and am so jealous. There's probably some stuff I could grow on my balcony but I kill plants with these definitely-not-green thumbs. I guess I can learn, and I know my niece will help with something like that.

All that to say, I think fresh herbs definitely make a delicious difference.

Renee said...

I simply cannot put anything with miracle whip on it in my mouth. It turns my stomach but I'll take a double dose of mayo everyday. The thought of relish in my tuna is enough to remind me of the morning sickness I had with my kids. No fact until I met the unhusband I didn't even know that people did that.
As for the mac and cheese, it is all about the seasonings you add. Parsley, Majoram (must have) and basil are my key secret ingredients. Oh and my mothers helper is Lipton Onion Soup goes in a lot of things and let me tell you is a life saver.
As far as weird extras..we fry corn beef in tomato paste with thyme, olive oil and onions. This is served with fried dumplings and Island roots are showing but I love the smell and we literally refer to it as fattening up the corn beef.

elle said...

Renee, my mom says you have to sweeten the tuna to cut the fishiness :-) hence the relish and sugar.

I, too, swear by Liptn Onion Soup mix, especially for much of what I roast--from meat to potatoes.

For mac and cheese, I'm still looking for an alternative--I just want to spice our traditional recipe up some.

I saw someone on TV cook corned beef once (undoubtedly Paula Deen). Til this day, I have no idea what it really is. I've just never had it.

Your fried dumplings--are they dough that you pan fry or what? We make dumplings, but boil them and add milk, salt, a bit of boiled egg, and a little extra flour so they get thick, lots of black pepper, and skinless, boneless, broken up pieces of chicken (voila Chicken-and-Dumplings).

mrs. o said...

Hey Elle! My favorite would be......Oh that's right I can't cook! Love Ya Lots.

Renee said...

Yeah our fried dumplings are dough..salt.,water, flour, sugar, egg, baking powder and milk...we then fry them up, when we are serving them for dinner or lunch we boil them.

The corn beef I am talking about comes in a can. For most poor Island families that is a large source of protein and often the only break from fish. MM and don't even get me started on I'm gonna give you a heart attack Paula Dean.

elle said...

mrs. o--you nut!

Renee, a pound-o-butter makes any recipe better.

I'm curious as to whether or not you can put filling in the dumplings? I've never thought about frying dumplings...

k8 said...

Re: Flour - I wouldn't do a complete switch from all-purpose to whole wheat. For one thing, they have slightly different properties, protein content, etc. The best way to do it is to substitute small parts of all-purpose with whole wheat - say, rather than 1 cup of all-purpose using 3/4 all-purpose and 1/4 whole wheat, and then adjusting for more or less next time you make the recipe.

Of course, there's always the option of just using recipes that call for whole wheat (or something else). I have a cookbook focused on whole grain baking and I keep my eye out for other recipes. Even then, they tend to contain some all-purpose flour. I made some mighty fine whole wheat buttermilk biscuits the other day!

elle said...


I'm having family in November for Thanksgiving and want to try biscuits. Would you be willing to share your recipe (here or via e-mail)?

An aside, I'm trying hard to make small changes, a few at a time, in my cooking--my niece, mom, and dad are diabetic, my son has serious chronic constipation, and I'd like to eat more healthfully and lose some weight--I don't worry about being thin, but I'm too young for the swollen ankles I have, plus my breasts are so heavy on my back.

k8 said...

While these are not low-fat, they are mostly whole grain. One of the most frightening things I've done is use cookbook/recipe software that also analyzes nutritional content and calories. I've learned a lot about some family favorites.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, frozen
1 cup buttermilk*

1. Heat Oven to 400 degrees

2. Whisk dry ingredients

3. Grate in butter (shredding works fine, too)

4. Stir in milk until just a little dry mixture remains on the bottom - do not overmix! Seriously, overmix and they will be hard. My father found this out the hard way when he chose to use an electric mixer with this recipe.

5. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes.

6. Pat out and shape dough into a square and cut into 6 - 8 portions.

7. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake for 16 - 20 minutes.

*The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup buttermilk. I find I use more. It could be b/c the recipe originally called for whole wheat pastry flour, which has slightly different properties.

elle said...

thank you, k8!

Quinn said...

I favor rainbow punch over tropical punch Kool-Aid. Oh yeah! And amen to the Ritz crackers... vastly superior to saltines.

CJF said...

Mac and Cheese: The quick addition to make it super yummy is a large wedge of brie broken up and stirred into the white sauce. The slower addition are onions and garlic cooked until their translucent and mixed in. Instead of Brie, ricotta does lovely things and I've been told plain yogurt does as well. But I like my Brie (thank you).

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...