Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hawaiian Spam Roast

It's no secret that Hawaiians are the nation's biggest consumers of Spam. It's kind of like Australia and Vegemite: it's a little taste of home wherever you go. My Nana spent her childhood in the islands and brought back a love for this recipe.

You will need:
Toaster oven (again, a full size oven is way more than you need)
A small roasting dish (some toaster ovens come with their own)
A can of Spam
A can of pineapple rings
brown sugar

Place Spam on its side in the roasting dish. Cut slices about 2/3 of the way into it. Stick pineapple rings in the slices. Dust with brown sugar; spoon pineapple juice over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Serves four small children or two Spam-loving adults.

Toasted Bagelwiches

You will need:
A toaster oven (regular oven will suffice but is really too big)
plain or sesame seed bagels, sliced
ripe tomatoes
sliced cheddar or jack cheese
dijon mustard

On each bagel half, spread a thin layer of the mustard. Arrange a tomato slice and slice of cheese on top of each one. (If you like, you can add a slice of meat such as ham under the cheese.) Place in the toaster oven and set the timer to medium (or until cheese melts.) Eat.

Serves one person per bagel.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Yarnot Family Sloppy Joes

This is literally unlike any sloppy joe you have ever had, because it starts from an entirely different premise.

You will need:
A large, deep saucepan
ground meat (beef or turkey; you can use sausage for extra flavor)
salt, pepper, spices of your choice (such as basil or oregano)
buns or tasty rolls

You can add:
diced bell pepper
diced jalepeño
leeks or green onions
a tiny bit of flavored vinegar such as balsamic

Over medium heat (my favorite!) cook the meat, stirring with the spatula, until there is no pink remaining. Add any vegetables you choose and the salt and pepper. Now here's the trick. Add equal parts of ketchup and mustard until the meat is completely covered; you can even kick up the mustard flavor by adding some dijon, mustard seed, or mustard powder. It's not a proper sloppy joe until your nose is streaming. Add any extra spices - you're the best arbiter of what you like - and maybe a splash of vinegar. Cook for a minute or until the sauce is heated through. Toast the rolls and ladel the meat-sauce over them; you usually will have to eat these with a fork. (Low-fat meats create a firmer sauce.)

A half-pound of meat is usually good for four rolls.

These are the sloppy joes I grew up with; ketchup (or tomato sauce) alone or (god forbid) barbecue sauce sloppy joes just do not taste right to me. Viva le mustard!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dad Salad

This recipe is so named because it was entirely a product of my dad's garden - I didn't realize for years that many people consider lettuce to be an essential part of the salad experience (which he never grew - and buy it? Why, when everything else is the tasty part?) We'd have a bowl apiece for two or three months almost every night - this is how you stretch your food budget.

A very sharp knife*
A really big bowl
Bell peppers (of varying colors - yellows and reds are the same as green except they're left on the vine longer, while special varieties, such as "chocolate", have different flavors)
Tomatoes (but not from the supermarket. Tasteless things they are.)

Use as available:
Lettuce (yes, it's okay to use, just not required)
Peas in the pod
Green onion tips

Wash the vegetables and cut them into little tiny pieces. The goal here is to make it so that you can get a little bit of everything on your fork. Toss and drench with Hidden Valley Ranch made from the mix because it's EXTREMELY different from the stuff you get in the bottle, and considerably more tasty (and runny.) Serve by the bowlful with barbecue or Italian - the cool, runny salad is a perfect counterpoint to thick sauces. Of course, it goes with just about any main dish.

*Anyone who has had an opportunity to use a good knife (as opposed to the Kmart special knives) understands how much better it makes your cooking experience. Trust me. Save up the $60 or $100 a good knife will cost you, and then get a sharpener and learn how to use it.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Candyfreak (reviewed below) offered readers the chance to ruminate about their candy memories. I was going to do so, and then realized that there were far too many to reduce to one simple post. I thought I'd post them here instead.

Back in the late '80s, my Girl Scout troop decided to take a tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. This was back when the Nut Tree factory outlet stores were still new and had not yet killed their parent, and when a human maze-craze had just been imported from Japan and the Wooz was brand new. Fairfield/Vacaville was a happening place.

Personally, I had not yet realized that Jelly Belly was a name brand, not just something silly people called one another (instead of "Jelly Bean.") Of course, that misconception was quickly shattered.

At that time, the tour started in a little corner of the factory that had been turned into an impromptu gift shop; the hours were horrible and the room dimly lit. We got a short video introduction, little paper hats, and a tour guide who actually took us on the factory floor and gave us samples of the Jelly Belly beans in various stages of the process. We didn't see anything resembling any other types of candy, which is interesting if you realize that the Herman Goelitz Candy Company (the official name, though they may have changed that) is the inventor of an iconic Halloween candy, candy corn. Really. They also make gummies, jawbreakers, and various chocolatey products, but it was candy corn that gave this company a living.

Of course, as with any good factory tour, the highlight was the gift shop. Back then, Belly Flops - the mistakes - were sold from a big barrel, no doubt laden with germs, from which you could scoop your own. There was a layer of licorice on the top from people who were either clever with their scoops or picked them out by hand. These days, Belly Flops are sold by the two-pound bag. You could also buy specific flavors by the pound, a much more expensive proposition.

This one visit didn't make a huge impact on my family. That came later, after a Christmas shopping trip with my brother's girlfriend. We passed by a Sweet Factory in the mall in downtown Sacramento, and I said how much I wanted Jelly Bellys, but they were so expensive there. She said, "The factory's not so far," and we drove out to Fairfield - a forty-minute proposition - just to satisfy our sweet tooths.

(She wanted me to buy one bag of Belly Flops that had a huge smear of blueberry beans in it, perhaps twenty or forty beans together in a huge blob. I declined because I was afraid it would come to life and eat us.)

So later that spring, when we were returning from a trip to the Bay Area, I made a comment as we passed by the exit for the factory, something about how it was a shame that they were probably closed. My father was shocked; he told me to make sure to tell him BEFORE we hit the exit next time, as he didn't know I knew where the factory was! Ever since then, my parents will stock up on Belly Flops every few months and gift them out (and eat them, too.) They were the ones who notified me about the new tourist building and huge gift shop, and as they travel to the Bay Area frequently (I have two sisters with kids there), they have lots of reason to stop.

Oh, how I love Jelly Bellys...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Four Pepper Pasta

3 bell peppers of different colors (green, yellow, red)*
1 pkg penne pasta (or mostacchioli - straight tubes is what you're looking for)
1 onion (size depends on your fondness for onion)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
cracked black pepper

*Bell peppers are different colors depending on how long they're left on the vine. Yellows are sweeter than reds, which are sweeter than greens. There are other variants, such as purple, which you can throw in for variety.

Cut the onion and peppers into chunks. Cook the onion in a little olive oil over medium heat; add peppers when you feel like it. (This is how you know this is a family recipe.) Cook to your taste; I like the vegetables crisp but you can caramelize the onions if you like.

Cook the penne according to package directions - taste test a minute or two before it says it's done so that you don't miss it. Drain and mix in the veggies; toss with balsamic vinegar, oregano, and cracked black pepper (the fourth pepper.)

Feeds four, or me and my hubby.