Tag Archives: Food

Mom’s stuff: 2 recipes made with beer and jotted on an envelope

I have in front of me a business envelope on which are two recipes in my mother’s handwriting written in pencil. The date stamp on the envelope is September 14, 1995.

The first recipe has no title:

  • 1 ½ lb. beef top round
  • ¾ c. flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ⅛ t. pepper
  • ¼ c. Coors beer
  • ¼ oil


  • 2 T flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ c Coors beer


  1. Cut meat into 6 pieces.
  2. Pound steak between waxed paper til thin (1/4 inch thick).
  3. Stir together ¾ c. flour, salt, and pepper.
  4. Dip meat in flour mixture, then in beer, then in flour again
  5. Brown in hot oil in skillet, turning once (3 to 5 minutes per side)
  6. Remove meat and keep warm


  1. Blend 2 T. flour in drippings
  2. Stir in milk and beer.
  3. Cook until thickened and bubbly.
  4. Cook and stir 1 – 2 minutes, serve as gravy.

The second recipe is titled Chili Tostadas

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 12 oz. can of beer
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped chilies
  • 1 T. Chili powder
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • cooking oil
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans (warmed in a pan or in the microwave)
  • shredded lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 c shredded Monterey jack cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced


  1. Brown beef and onion until meat is brown
  2. Stir in beer, tomato paste, green chilies, chili powder, sugar, and salt
  3. Heat to boiling.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
  5. Meanwhile, cook tortillas in hot oil for 20 to 40 seconds on each side until crisp and golden
  6. Drain on paper towel
  7. Spoon beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and avocado on tortillas


Where I shop Part 1: The Amish Market

Gearing up for the holiday dedicated to eating, I started thinking of where I get my food. I’d like to say I buy only organic, cruelty-free food from local farms but that would be a lie. We are beginning to do a little of that — some local vegetables during growing season, cage-free organic eggs when Clare or I purchase them, cruelty-free (until they are slaughtered) chickens when Clare is around to eat it, organic grass feed meat when Clare is around. We do make sure to buy non-farmed fish, though — but I suppose that is because I’m the only one who buys fish.

When we lived in Pittsburgh we shopped in “The Strip” most Saturdays. It was such a fun experience — getting cheese from the cheese store, meat from the butcher, bread from the bakery, pasta from the macaroni shop, coffee from the coffee store (you get the picture) that I’ve often thought longingly of those days. A couple of years ago Dean told me about an Amish market up-county that he heard had good food. We visited one Saturday and have been back many times since. It is a little like our Pittsburgh shopping experience — except we can stay warm in the winter.

skillet meal
Dean’s skillet meal with country-style sausage from Lancaster County Meats at the Lancaster County Dutch Market

The Lancaster County Dutch Market — or as we call it “The Amish Market” is housed in a strip mall in Germantown, Maryland and is usually open Thursday through Saturday each week. Within the “market” are about a dozen vendors that cover all food groups (meats, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables, pretzels and candy). They also sell furniture and flowers. In addition you can eat breakfast or lunch (maybe dinner too) at either King’s Barbecue Pit where you order your food (including rotisserie rabbit) and take it home or sit at one of the booths to enjoy it there or the Dutch Family Restaurant — a sit-down eatery in the center of the market. We’ve not eaten at either, but it is on our to-do list. We have eaten at the Lapp’s Pretzels, however. I am willing to bet you have never had a pretzel as good as the pretzels Lapp’s sells.

Each vendor is family-run — so the person that helps you and takes your money is Amish — men and women are all in traditional dress which makes sense because they are Amish. I don’t know the story, but I think that the people that work in the market must travel down from Lancaster County Wednesday evenings and go back Saturday evenings. I don’t have any idea where they stay during their work week or how they travel the 100 or so miles from Lancaster, PA to Germantown, MD. Some of the Amish at the market seem young enough to still be in school — and I doubt they go to school in Montgomery County — so either they don’t stay in school as long as non-Amish usually do or they just look younger than non-Amish.

While it is not exactly like our Pittsburgh shopping experience, it is definitely an experience and we plan on purchasing our meats from there from now on. Their vegetables may be home-grown in the growing season, but unless they have greenhouses and grow summer fruit all winter long, I think they must import lots of their produce from afar. Still, I’d prefer buying fruit and vegetables from them than the local grocery store for some reason, at least during the non-growing season.

Groningse Mustard Soup

Jar of Groninger MosterdBack in December one of my Facebook and Twitter friends — a birdwatcher from The Netherlands — posted that she was going to have Mustard Soup for lunch. After a bit of discussion where I expressed disbelief, then awe, she posted a recipe and when I wondered where to find Groninger Mustard she offered to send me a jar and I accepted (and offered to send her a local spice in exchange — she chose Old Bay seasoning).

Before too long I received not one, but two jars of Groninger Mustard and set them aside until after wrestling season when we could enjoy the fat and calories with Andrew.

One day, a couple of weeks ago I purchased the ingredients for the soup and followed a recipe I found online (I’d lost the link that my friend sent, but assumed all recipes would be similar).

I was sure that I was going to love this soup, it sounded so delicious (mustard, bacon, cream — what’s not to love?) and even took a series of photos while preparing it à la The Pioneer Woman.

I know enough about cooking to become concerned when I saw how much flour in relationship to how much fat was in the recipe — of course I didn’t throughly read the recipe before I was well into making the soup (that would have been the prudent thing to do) — but plowed ahead anyway. I also knew, as I was pouring in the cream that I had not cooked the roux enough and that the soup would taste floury.

Finished soupWhile the soup was lovely to look at, especially sprinkled with newly sprouted chives from our herb garden, it tasted more like it should have been the base for biscuits and gravy (a dish I dislike) instead of the delicate cream soup I’d envisioned.

I’m going to assume I used the wrong recipe and undercooked the roux and maybe try again sometime. We still have a jar and a half of Groninger Mustard left. I sent a FB message to my Dutch friend, asking her if it was supposed to be so thick, but she didn’t respond. She may have overlooked the message; she has a lot of friends. Either that or I insulted her by not liking the soup. Nah — Not Gwen.

Rupert Rising Bread

Rupert and Rupert Rising Bread
Rupert and Rupert Rising Bread

Sometime ago Indigo Bunting wrote a blog post that mentioned getting a sandwich on Rupert Rising Bread. Of course the name made me research it because of my Rupert and I hoped that someday I could taste some of this bread.

Before we headed out on our trip to the North East to visit colleges I did a few searches about Rupert Rising Bread. I found their website that said they provided bread to local restaurants and shops. I thought we might be able to make a detour to the town of Rupert (for photo opportunities as well as bread) but didn’t know if I could actually buy the bread at the bakery. While in Vermont I kept a keen eye out for signs of shops that sold the bread or made sandwiches out of it. I nearly asked the folks at Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe if they knew where I could buy some in Middlebury but was a little too shy.

I was resigned to not get the treat of Rupert Rising Bread as we headed to Parts West to visit Indigo Bunting and Lali. I knew we would probably chat a while and would not have time to visit the town of Rupert, Vermont.

So I was surprised and delighted when Indigo Bunting mentioned that she’d bought us a loaf of Rupert Rising Bread (which then caused all kinds of chaos while Rupert was brought out to meet Indigo Bunting, Lali and the God Cod).

After we left Parts West we thought of how to best honor this loaf of bread. Indigo Bunting warned us that it should be eaten soon because it had no preservatives so about an hour after we left Parts West we all had a chunk of bread. It was delicious and made us think even harder about what to have it with when we got home.

Rupert and Rupert Rising Bread -- close-up
Rupert and Rupert Rising Bread -- close-up

I suggested Vichyssoise since it was quick, but then remembered we had no potatoes. Dean suggested canned soup. I thought it should have something other that lowly canned soup. I suggested spaghetti with “red sauce. Dean suggested spaghetti with clam sauce. This went on and on and when we got home we were not all that hungry anyway so our first real meal complimented by Rupert Rising Bread was bread and cheese and tomatoes.

The next day we planned a better meal — eggplant Parmesan. Dean and Andrew also made sandwiches with it. Tonight we have a few small pieces left and will use it to sop up extra cheese from our au gratin potatoes and gravy from the Easter ham.

It was a rare treat and hopefully someday we’ll get to taste it again.

Thanks, IB. It was well appreciated and not one crumb was wasted.


[Note: I’m sure any steel-cut oatmeal is as good as the kind I had today — I am not endorsing one brand over another. I just liked the can and this was my first taste of steel-cut oats. McCann’s did not give me any free products. Or a free trip to Ireland. Honest.]

McCann's Steel-cut Irish Oatmeal
McCann's Steel-cut Irish Oatmeal

It took me years to actually like oatmeal, but when I did learn to like it — I really did. At first, and for years, the only oatmeal I’d eat was the instant, flavored kind — especially the apples and cinnamon flavor. Then, probably after having oatmeal at bed and breakfasts, I’d occasionally make, what I thought to be “real” oatmeal — the kind you cook for a while on the stove — or in the microwave, I believe Quaker calls it “Old Fashioned Oats”. I found that if I put brown sugar in it I could eat it.

Our kids, especially our daughter, liked oatmeal — and called it “porridge” — probably because my husband or I called it that to make them want to eat it — it sounded like something out of an old-time story.

While my husband continued to eat oatmeal in the mornings, I quit eating breakfast altogether, except for the occasional container of yogurt.

Recently, however, I had coffee with a friend at Starbucks. Well, she had coffee, I had orange juice and some of their oatmeal. I’d had it before, and always felt it tasted better at Starbucks (probably because I was overpaying there). My friend said that there were various grades of oatmeal — and some tasted better than others. She said she thought that the oatmeal I was used to was pre-cooked — that was why it was flat. I always assumed that oats were flat. She said that she and her husband ate steel-cut oatmeal. I’d heard of it, but had never tried it. It sounded too wholesome for me.

So the other day I was at Giant and thought I’d give steel-cut oatmeal a try. I found a brand of oatmeal I’d eaten before — McCann’s Irish Oatmeal. The can itself was worth the price. It is all old-fashioned looking and boasted of winning a prize at the World Colombian Exhibition — an event that I’m obsessed with. I figured that if we didn’t like the oats, at least we’d get a cool looking tin out of it.

This morning I followed the directions and made a serving of oatmeal. The oats looked so different from what I thought oats looked like — they were like very small pebbles instead of like thick pieces of taupe confetti. I understood what my friend meant about the other oatmeal being pre-cooked.

Cooking the oatmeal took a long time — more than a half hour. I wondered if there might be a quicker way to make this and thought I’d check online. Once the oatmeal was ready to eat, I felt that the time involved was worth it. The taste is much more intense than that of regular oatmeal. All I added was a sprinkling of dried fruit and a dollop of Greek yogurt.


Processed foods. And me.

For years and years I avoided processed foods. I made cakes and brownies from scratch. I rarely bought pre-made spaghetti sauce. I cooked only fresh (or sometimes frozen) vegetables. The only processed food I’d make was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because it was such a comfort food.

If I made anything (except Kraft Mac & Cheese) from a mix, jar or bag I felt guilty. I’m not sure what I felt guilty for, but I felt guilty nonetheless.

Lately, however, I’ve been making more and more meals out of processed foods. I almost always have a jar of Barilla (or Rao or Bertolli or Classico — what’s ever on sale at Giant) in the pantry and often use it in place of the tomato sauce in a spaghetti sauce recipe. I rarely make deserts from scratch anymore — in fact I don’t remember the last time I made a cake or brownies not from a mix.

I’d noticed other people cutting corners by using processed foods and figured it would be ok if I did it too.

Really lately (like in the past couple of weeks) I’ve made a lot of processed food. The most notable is Bertolli’s frozen entrees. I’d seen them at the grocery store and thought they might taste ok and longed for a quick and easy meal to make when I didn’t feel like cooking or for something the kids could make for themselves. I finally bought one when it was on sale and served it for dinner (just Andrew and me, but Dean tasted it) and liked what I tasted. It was pretty good. And I didn’t have to cook the pasta, make the sauce, brown and cook the meat. All I had to do was throw it in a pan and heat it for 10 minutes.

So last night I made one of these meals for dinner. Dean had eaten, Clare was at Prom, Andrew had a sandwich earlier but I was hungry. I thought the food tasted good, but then remembered why I’d avoided procesed foods for so long. It wasn’t the price. It wasn’t to keep me busy. It wasn’t even the taste. It was because these things are unhealthy. I could feel my body absorbing the salt in the entree and I’m sure there are chemicals in the meals that would not have been in anything I’d made fresh. According to this web site, the portion I had last night (1/2 a bag) would be walked off in 158 minutes. That’s a lot of walking for an easy meal.Plus the sodium in that serving was nearly half my daily allowance. (assuming I’m a 37 year old 144lb female which I am not)

So, I once knew why I tried to make fresh food and limited my processed food intake, but the lure of convenience blinded me — made me forget the real reason I liked to cook from scratch. It wasn’t because I loved cooking. It wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to buy processed foods. It wasn’t because processed foods tasted bad. It was because they are full of things that should not be regularly ingested.

Damn. I gotta start cooking for real again.

Cooking for my family

I used to like to cook. I don’t mind cooking for other folks but cooking for my family has become a pain, especially during wrestling season. Here’s why…

My daughter is a vegetarian – albeit one that eats fish, dairy and eggs, but won’t touch poultry or meats. She is also not a fan of many vegetables. My son won’t eat cooked vegetables, but eats meat (but only meat that has been cooked on a grill (which also means he doesn’t like stew or pot roast) and seafood. He also won’t eat hamburger with a low fat content. He doesn’t much like poultry, but will eat some chicken recipes. My husband pretty much eats everything, but he doesn’t like chicken except for some recipes (luckily, the same ones as my son). My husband must have a starch with his meals (potato, rice, pasta — in that order) oh, and bread — he must have his bread. I like chicken and turkey and could eat that almost exclusively, but I also like meat and seafood (except scallops) and many vegetables (but I, too, prefer them raw). Neither child likes quiche (and my son doesn’t like eggs). Neither one likes home-made pizza, although they both love pizza from a pizza parlor.

Looking at the likes and dislikes above one might conclude that I’m just whining. That’s not entirely true. Because now we must consider the days of the week. My husband often skips dinner on Monday evenings because he has tae kwon-do practice most Monday evenings. My son plays soccer so about 9 months a year he has practice twice a week, often interfering with dinner. So Monday and Thursday meals need to be something that can be kept warm until after sports. During the winter (November through March) my son also wrestles and must watch his weight. He often eats very little in the days before a meet or tournament.

So, aside from trying to work around the likes and dislikes of this family, I also need to consider the ever changing schedules. Usually I end up cooking two meals – one for the meat eaters and one for the vegetarian. The best days are days we have fish and salad, because everyone is happy then.  Although one of my new year resolutions was to cook for myself, and if the others were not happy, so be it — let them cook the next meal.

We eat a lot of pasta. And fish, although that gets expensive. And Tex-Mex.

Tonight for dinner we are having chicken piccata. Except for Clare who will have tofu piccata. We’ll also have penne agli olio and a salad.

If you have a recipe/meal plan that will fit our preferences, I’d be forever in your debt.

Lilit – my favorite restaurant

A few years ago a new restaurant opened up near us. I didn’t notice right away because nothing changed about the building — it was a mom & pop beer & wine store that I went to once, but avoided because it was dark and seedy looking inside. At some point they added a small dining area and served food, but it just didn’t appeal to me.

Then a couple of signs appeared on the front window. One declared they served the “Best Crab Cakes in Bethesda” and the other advertised free broadband wifi. Now that caught my attention. I saw that the name of the restaurant changed from “Something Something Beer and Wine” to “Lilit“. Dean also noticed the change and suggested we stop in sometime.

Around the time we noticed the changes, our friends David and Alison told us they’d been going to an Armenian restaurant within walking distance of their home. After a couple of minutes discussion we realized they were talking about Lilit. They said the food was good and the wine prices reasonable, but the best thing about the establishment was the owners. The owners were very friendly and knew David and Alison on sight and always seemed delighted that they stopped in.

Now, this may not be special to you — especially if you don’t live in the Bethesda area, but this is really unusual around here. Most dining establishments around here are so busy that they don’t have time to remember regulars, (although we are not regulars anywhere in Bethesda, except maybe Pines of Rome — and they are not very friendly there).

The first time I dined at Lilit, I was with my friends Alison and Janet. We’d just seen a film and wanted a meal afterwards. We looked at the restaurants in downtown Bethesda, but there were no seats to be had on a Saturday evening, so Alison suggested Lilit. I’d been wanting to go ever since she mentioned it, so I said yes.

We were greeted warmly by a young man who told us to sit where we wanted to. It was rather late, and the hours of operation stated they were closing in an hour, so the dining room was empty, except for us. I chose a bottle of wine from the wine rack, the young man opened it while we waited for our food which we’d ordered at the counter.

I ordered the crab cake, Janet had the eggplant parmigiana sub, I don’t recall what Alison had, but she liked it. We all liked our food. The crab cake was the best I’d had in Bethesda. The prices were very reasonable – the wine cost the same as it would have cost at the local wine store — they don’t mark it up like most restaurants do.

Because I liked the restaurant so much, I encouraged Dean to go soon after I went with Janet and Alison. We both had the crab cakes, and Dean agreed that they were the best he’d had. That time there was a different person behind the counter, but he was just as friendly as the young man earlier.

For a while, I often went for take-out and was greeted warmly each time. Then the ownership changed – from the older man to the young man who served me the first time. He made some changes, like creating a web site for the restaurant. He also has periodic wine tastings and sends out newsletters about once a month.

Now when I stop in, the owner, Davinder, greets me warmly and, if he hasn’t seen me in a while, remarks on that. The food continues to be delicious and reasonable. The wine, is always good and if we don’t finish a bottle we can take it home with us. The best part continues to be the friendliness of the staff.

I am trying to work my way though the menu — and have sampled many of the sandwiches, but I always go back to the crab cakes. They are very good. They also have a gelato machine and make it fresh often. It’s very good — and if I can believe their claims, better for me than ice cream!

Tonight we stopped in for dinner. I had the crab cake platter and a new addition to their menu – daal soup. It was delicious and filling. Dean liked it too, and Davinder pretty much told me how it was made.  I’ll try to make it sometime, but if they continue to carry it, I might just stop in Lilit for a bowl now and then instead.

While Dean likes the restaurant, he’s not as entranced as I am, but the only specific comment he’s had is that he wishes they offered regular bread, and not just gluten free. Clare doesn’t like the bread, and none of the few vegetarian options are things she likes much. (she did not like the daal soup when I brought a bowl home for her to try). They do have a sandwich with fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers that she tried, which she said was ok. The peppers should have been roasted a bit more for her taste though. However, Clare is rather picky about her food.

We were a little worried that Lilit might not survive, given its location (far from the main section of Bethesda) and the fact that it was not filling up evenings, but recently we’ve seen all tables filled on the weekends. Last night we had to briefly wait for a table; and other folks, who came in later, had to wait longer for tables. So, we’re confident that if they continue to fill up at night and on weekends, they will survive. Hope the owner doesn’t burn out though. Except for one time when his friend took over for him, he’s always been there when I’ve stopped by.


It is Restaurant Week in Bethesda. I didn’t know it existed until reading a blog post about it and then getting a reminder about it in an email from Bethesda Urban Partnership. A good deal – a 3 course meal for $30. (not including wine).

I looked around at restaurants I wanted to visit – we had to do it tonight because I have a meeting tomorrow and Dean’s gone for the rest of the week. I’ve wanted to go to Grapseed for a long time, but didn’t expect them to have any seats left at the time we wanted to go. I chose Visions because I’d just found out about it, and corresponded with one of the chefs. (I complained about their pop-up on their home page.)

When Dean got home we talked about where we wanted to eat. I told him about Visions, but said I’d like to go to Grapeseed if they had a spot. Dean called and we got a reservation at Grapeseed at the “chef’s table”.

fire.jpgThe chef’s table, in case you didn’t know, is a bar overlooking the kitchen. It is probably the last to go because it isn’t very romantic, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching the chefs cook. And it was warm, by all that fire.

Our meal was delicious. The wine was wonderful. The chefs were entertaining. The bill wasn’t bad, considering this is probably the best restaurant in Bethesda. Although if you add the parking ticket to the top of the bill, it was kind of expensive.

It’s like manna from Heaven

We have a friend, Glenn, whose mother loved to cook for his friends. That was great for us because we liked to eat, and she was a good cook. However, you couldn’t finish your plate at her house because as soon as it was empty Freida would say, “Oh you’ve finished, here, have some more,” and plop down another helping or two of the main course and/or side dishes. I feel like that now, with volunteer stuff. As soon as I clear my plate of one job, another job shows up. And it is not as if the kids help around the house more – actually they help less than before because of their own schedules. Dean does more, but he’s been travelling a fair bit.

I’m not really complaining – I actually like volunteering. I get more satisfaction out of that than I do with work-for-pay. (so much so I didn’t collect money from folks that said they’d pay me — how do you take money from a friend?)

 I am breathing a little easier now though. I have a high proirity project that I thought was due COB today, but was told Monday was fine. Since I work every weekend anyway, this is no burden whatsoever.

Not that I am finishing my NaNoWriMo project though. I gave that up after the first couple of days. Even getting an email from one of my current favorite authors won’t lure me back to that hell.

Thoughts of Freida’s cooking has made me hungry.