"Piehole" in Midwestern means "mouth," as in "Shut your piehole." Preferably we shut it on some tasty home cooking. We love to grow, market, buy, cook, bake and grill so we can feed our faces, chow down, pig out, scarf & whatnot. I'm a born Midwestern home cook posting foods and recipes that show up in front of me, because like all Midwesterners I eat what's put in front of me. Pull up a chair. What can I get you?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The $4 Steak Plate

Why dine out when you can cheaply home-cook and plate yourself some grilled London broil and fresh vegetables? Sliced cucumber I got from gardening: free. Tomato came free, a bonus from the farmer I buy eggs from. Lettuce is one-half of one-third of a package of three organic romaine heads, which means what's on the plate cost 70 cents. London broil got on sale, 18 ounces for $7.47, is 41.5 cents per ounce. That times the six ounces you see here is $2.49. That's $3.19 total. Add in the onion and the cup of cooking wine that went into the marinade, and the homemade steak sauce (recipe follows), and the meal cost around $4. Optional: a Stella Artois whose green bottle and red label matched prettily with the meal. It's a clean-tasting beer good for summer, with a great buzz factor. It came from a six-pack, so it cost $1.16.

Easy Homemade Steak Sauce. Very simple and you'll never want store-bought again.

1/3 cup raisins (Yes, raisins. You'll see.)
1/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons plain white vinegar
salt and pepper
  • Pour boiling water over the raisins in a bowl and let them sit 5 minutes until they're plumped. Then pour the raisins and their water into a blender with the rest of the ingredients except salt and pepper, and then puree until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes a little over one cup. I discovered that this sauce freezes well if you want to make it ahead.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Make 'Em Want Salad

Shrimp excites most everyone; so does avocado. Steam and chill the shrimp, add sliced avocado and grapefruit sections and serve on top of romaine. Drizzle this with your regular vinaigrette, doctored with a spoonful of prepared mustard. Mustard ties the flavors together wonderfully. Just remember: "Shrimp, Avocado and Grapefruit Salad." I threw in a halved cherry tomato.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Secrets of a Slim(mer) Midwesterner

A long spell of 100+-degree weather forces me to grocery shop at night, when most folks are home watching the 10 o'clock news, and I find that while the fish and butcher counters are closed after 9 p.m. they've packaged up what didn't sell that day and sell it for cheap. This is handy because after many years of making and eating pastas and homemade breads those now just make me gain belly weight visible the very next day, and I have shifted to raw vegetables and lean proteins, including an egg at  breakfast and lots more fish. This being Missouri, the Walmart doesn't even have a seafood counter, so I go to the name grocery that's open 24 hours, and am trying all sorts of their on-sale offerings like this pound of breaded sole fillets here, and skewered shrimp, and The Piehole is also learning to grill hunks of beef, so far successfully. (Chicken has never struck me as being as healthy and tasty as people say it is, so I never buy or eat it unless somebody else cooked it first.) I also bought tonight a fatless hunk of select-grade London broil for $7 that will feed six people, $4 off normal price. And for lunch I had one three-ounce burger of organic ground-beef raised in California, MO. Just halted all that bread and pasta and suddenly I have a waistline again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What is Softserve?

Meet "Cherry Meltdown," a softserve sundae that's a top-10 choice at a popular local ice-cream--er, softserve stand. I ate about two-thirds of it for supper, telling myself  "it has calcium," and wondering "What is 'softserve' anyway?"

Softserve is packaged powder with a little liquid milk or soybean oil, whipped to incorporate air and chilled right there in that stainless-steel box with the faucet that ripples out your ice cream (er, softserve). That's why you never see trucks unloading milk or ice cream at what we still call ice-cream stands. Legally softserve cannot be called ice cream because it contains no cream. "Ice cream" is "frozen custard" with air whipped into it. "Frozen custard" is the elite version of ice cream and the most expensive, you'll notice.

Advantages of softserve: 1) It's not so cold that it gives you ice-cream headaches. 2) Because it's up to 60 percent air, it has fewer calories than ice cream. 3) Dairy-intolerant people can eat it if they want to. 4) It's cheap.

Disadvantages: After learning what is in softserve, you won't want to eat any except in the gravest extreme, like, say, you're spending three months in a submarine. And you'll want the toppings even less.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pesto Pizza Floating in Space

White-flour tortilla with pesto and sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, and bell peppers. All farmer's-market fresh. And of course mozzarella. Looks very rich, but it's a six-inch tortilla, just enough for pizza pleasure, minus pigout. Photo taken in my Breville toaster oven, used almost daily, and for my improvisational mini-pizzas, always. The pizza still has a few minutes left to bake.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rice and Milk: Updating an Easy Classic

These days it's brown rice with dried cherries and slivered almonds. I tried Minute Rice brown rice microwavable single servings (1 cup) just to try it out. It's fully cooked, so just empty the plastic cup (hate that plastic) and heat the rice in your plate. Do heat it first for 60 seconds and it'll taste fresher. I've just discovered that dry brown rice, even in a nice glass jar, after several months goes rancid and instead of a  nutlike taste and texture tastes sour! Folks who hate brown rice were probably served rancid brown rice and the cook didn't know it. This Minute Rice product tasted fine, though, and saved 45 minutes of stove time. Good if you need fast or portable brown rice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer on the Counter

Fresh-picked arugula, fresh-made pesto with olive oil and a touch of lemon juice, cheese sauce, fabulous heirloom tomato. Smells as good as it looks. It will taste even better.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Piehole Goes Italian: Pizza, and Arugula Salad

The one food I would want on a desert island is pizza and I eat it thrice a week at least. I buy a bag of five or six nine-inch frozen pizza shells, the thin kind, from the Italian grocery, because they're cheaper than at the big grocery store. Also, at the Italian place buy pizza seasoning. Nothing else will make your home pizza taste like real pizza. Penzey's Spices sells Pizza Seasoning too.

To make your pizza crisp and tasty, pour some olive oil on top of the shell and spread it to the edges. Then dust it with pizza spice. Top with whatever, in this case some fresh mushrooms that I'd sauteed slowly in a little butter to get the water out. Tomato is not always necessary. I always put cheese, and make up for the indulgence by eatin' my greens. Absent a real pizza shell, I'll use a wheat tortilla, same way. After it's baked, cool it slightly on a rack, not in the pan, or the bottom gets soggy.

Arugula (aka roquette or rocket) is a very spicy leafy herb that's fast and easy to grow and get hooked on. Get organic arugula seeds from The Cook's Garden; at least that's where I got mine. Plant in sun and ignore (okay, water a bit during drought) and harvest in about four weeks. Wash it and stem it and spin it like any other green.

An All-Arugula Salad is heavenly and needs to be dressed very lightly and simply. A few drops of olive oil; toss. A squeeze of lemon juice. Toss. A mini-pinch of salt. It's ready. A few thin slices of fresh mushroom won't hurt. Tomato, though, would be gilding the lily. I like serving it on a glass plate like I get my salads in Italian restaurants.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hot and Sour Soup

A favorite dish: grated fresh ginger and plumped-up dried shiitake mushrooms sauteed in 3 tablespoons of sesame oil; then add 4 cups broth or water, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and bean threads, which cook in 3 minutes. Throw in peapods (or greens) and shrimp and three tablespoons cider vinegar and one tablespoon soy sauce. Good served hot, even in summer. If it needs reheating, do it in the microwave; repeated boiling on the stove will make the noodles dissolve. Replace shrimp with tofu cubes sometime. Ginger anything will make you feel good.

Now's The Time

Go buy a watermelon. Cost about $5.99-$7.99 per this year because of fuel prices from trucking them up to here from Kennett. You will not regret your purchase. When we were kids we'd drill a hole in a watermelon and pour a bottle of vodka in it, slowly, and wait til the booze was all absorbed, then we'd eat it and get down with some Three Dog Night and Elton John. We weren't as ashamed to dance then as folks seem to be now. Our churches didn't say we couldn't.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Barbecued Chicken Salad

Down where Highway 109 meets the baseball field, the Knights of Columbus set up for summer weekends barbecuing for charity, selling half a barbecued chicken for $5, either "wet" (with sauce) or dry. I like mine wet. If it needs to be shared, stretch it by making a lettuce salad dressed with the barbecue sauce, toss in good-sized chicken chunks so men will eat it, and some bell pepper strips for pretty, then serve in pasta-sized bowls alongside homemade sourdough bread. When you think you're ready to eat it, 'cuz we don't stand on ceremony here, there's also a cup of carrot soup with cilantro, which is good hot or at room temperature. You don't need cream for a good carrot soup. Just toss 3 tablespoons of white rice into your carrot-soup pot, cook it all for 20 minutes, and puree.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Welcome to Piehole Midwest

"Piehole" in Midwestern means "mouth," as in "Shut your piehole." Preferably we shut it on some tasty home cooking. Sometimes we eat healthy, sometimes not, but we love to grow, market, buy, cook, bake, grill and serve stuff to fill our pieholes, feed our faces, chow down, pig out, scarf & whatnot. I'm a hard-core born Midwestern home cook in Missouri, and I'll be posting foods and meals that show up in front of me, because like all Midwesterners I eat what's put in front of me. Like this bowl o' blueberries here. They got piled on French toast with maple syrup for breakfast. Coffee was our drink.