Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Ahem. February 26, 2011

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 10:43 AM

I would just like to point out that after cooking and eating “Power Foods” for two weeks, I got sick for the first time in a year.

Correlation or causation? You be the judge.


To review January 2, 2011

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 10:04 AM

Here it is, Sunday, and I have no Martha meal hanging over my head. I can cook whatever I want! I can go to the store in my neighborhood and see what looks good or what is on sale and cook that. I am FREEEEEE!

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me throughout the project, and read my cranky posts. Your encouragement helped me keep going when it would have been easier to quit. I immensely enjoyed the project, even though I didn’t enjoy a lot of the food. I hadn’t written anything for pleasure in a very long time, so that part was fun. I did not enjoy all the time, money and food we wasted, however, running all over town hunting down speciality ingredients, only to end up with leftovers uneaten in the frig. 

Both the book and I have suffered many indignities...

Standouts in Spring were the: lemon mousse; currant scones; catfish po’boys; bananas with caramel sauce;  arugula and avocado salad; fontina flatbread; spoonbread; pasta with mint pesto; pan-roasted chicken pieces.

Summer:  tomato/basil/white bean salad; Mexican corn cakes and refried beans; spicy shrimp and noodles in coconut broth; blackberry shortbread squares; tuna in tomato-basil sauce; chicken kabobs.

Fall: roasted pork with sage and garlic; spiced lamb chops; sautéed okra and tomatoes; apple-cranberry crumble; quail with figs and pine nuts; roasted parsnip and chorizo bites; celery root puree.

Winter: crispy ham sandwiches; tart apple bistro salad; citrus-soy sweet potatoes; sesame-spinach rolls; artichokes on toast; hoisin chicken; spicy cucumber scallion pickles; citrus-cashew salad; cauliflower gratin; chicken in tarragon sauce; curried vegetable pot pies; rosemary yorkshire puddings; Italian sausages with red onion gravy.

That may look like plenty, but when you consider that the cookbook has more than 200 recipes, that is actually about 16%.  When you take into account that some things were spectacularly bad, like the oily Swedish meal, the caramel pudding, the soapy kiwi in jasmine syrup, haricot vert with tapenade, the horribly bitter salads and the shaved asparagus tart, I just can’t recommend the cookbook overall, as there are much better ones out there.  

Things learned, not to be confused with ‘life lessons’:

1. I like kumquats

2. Cooking clams and mussels need not be intimidating.

3. I don’t want dessert most of the time, especially the ones in this cookbook

4. I kind of miss the old people creamy desserts. Or, rather, writing about them.

5. Martha needs Seasonal Produce Identification lessons

So, what is next? At this point, I can’t commit, for mental health reasons, to cooking my way through another book. For now, I plan to pick from my stack of recipes I have been waiting to try, or my other cookbooks. I promise to make some things that may be a challenge or terrible. 

I hope you continue to read, and if there is anything you would like to see me cook and review, let me know!


Where Your Vote Matters, Kind Of November 3, 2010

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 1:06 PM

Hello, little chitterlings!

No new Martha recipe to report upon yet. Last week found me experimenting with baked donuts and making soups instead. The donuts need some work, but this soup was phenomenal.

Now, the point of the post is this: My project of cooking through Dinner at Home is coming to an end, as there are but 10 recipes left. I can’t even believe it.  The thought of being able to cook whatever, whenever I want is exhilarating!

But! I would miss posting. I still have a steady group of readers and subscribers, so I think I may continue. But in what manner? Should I pick another cookbook? Cook my way through my giant notebook of as-of-yet untried recipes I have pulled out of magazines and printed off the interwebs over the last few years? Maybe some of my subscribers are sick of reading this but are too polite to unsubscribe, so you’re hoping SP goes dark at the end of the hazelnut mini muffins?

So, I am opening this up for discussion/suggestions as to what to do next. If it’s to be another cookbook, I would prefer that it not be dedicated to one type of cuisine, like a Mexican cookbook, for example, although I am not ruling it out, as I love my Mexican Everyday cookbook. I also prefer that it not be outrageously unhealthy and/or stuffed with a lot of meat recipes. For that reason, Nigella Lawson and Pioneer Woman are out, too. We were thinking of going way in the other direction, and doing Veganomicon, but that scares me. Also, it cannot be a millionty pages long, like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (Vegetarian), as much as I love it.

Of course all the recipes shouldn’t be too good (ruling out Barefoot Contessa) or my posts won’t be any fun to write. How many times can you write, “Oh, it was really good!” and not get bored?

For the record, Martha Stewart has another cookbook set up like this one, with 52 meals arranged by season, called Healthy Quick Cook. I doubt that they are either healthy or quick, and it’s out of print but I could get a used copy. Do I dare commit to suffer through another year of Martha?!?!?!

Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion!

gratuitous pooch photo


Town House in Chilhowie and Other Delights October 23, 2010

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 7:00 PM

Last weekend we traveled to SW Virginia as part of a belated ten-year anniversary celebration. The Husband wanted to go to the mountains to ride bikes. I think mountains are creepy, but since we did the beach for our 5th, I figured it was fair.

We drove out to Damascus on Friday, and as soon as we got into town we had to hit the bike shop as I had a flat tire and needed a new gear shifter dealiething. We got that squared away and checked into our B & B, the Victorian Inn.  

Dinky Damascus

We changed and headed over to Chilhowie to have dinner at the Town House. Perhaps you have heard of it–they have gotten lots of press, including articles in the NYT, the Washington Post, etc, as they are doing fantastic things, essentially in the middle of nowhere.  The husband of the husband/wife chef duo won a Food & Wine magazine best new chef award this year.

The Town House offers a couple of items a la carte, but focuses on its four and ten course dinners. We opted for the four course, and between the two of us we tried everything on the menu, I think. My first course was crab and pumpkin–it was quite lovely, but I don’t remember much about it. The Husband got the baked apple that had been hollowed out and filled with a melted foie gras, with some kind of cider-y sauce. I don’t normally like foie gras, but it was very good. How did they do it?

My second course was peeky toe crab, grilled onions, what I initially thought was a potato slice that turned out to be a banana, lemon grass and a broth that the chef brought out to pour in the bowl. It was amazing!! I never would have thought that crab and banana would go together, but it did. The husband couldn’t eat either of the second course options (shellfish) so he got the scrambled egg mousse, which was very smooth and silky, served atop some chad roe. The mousse was sprinkled with nutmeg and contained sorghum, so it was a tad like a pumpkin pie. How they can combine those flavors with roe and have it be delicious really boggles the mind!

Third courses were abalone and chicken confit, served with various seaweeds, and roasted lamb. The lamb stole the show. It tasted nothing like lamb, as it was very smoky and looked more like a ham in appearance. It was roasted in edible ash, which consisted of dehydrated bacon fat, onions, and leeks. Amazing. It looked just like the ash you see in the bottom of your camp fire, except it was delicious.

Desserts were the candied parsnip plate for me: candied parsnips three ways, parsnip ice cream, banana pudding, a coconut mousse cube (how did it hold its shape?!), lemongrass ice, a macaroon bit, and some sponge cake. OMG, it was so good. The Husband had the chocolate dessert plate, with different chocolate mousses and a sorrel ice. He said it was yumtastic. There were some edible flowers and such on the plates–the one on mine looked a bit like Queen Anne’s lace, but I am not sure what it was.

It was one of the best meals of my life. If I had seen these dishes described on a menu I would have expected them to taste awful, but it was truly magical how everything worked together. The wine list, by the way, was fantastic. Prices for a bottle ranged from about $30 up to $800, with all sorts of yummy things to tempt. We got bubbly due to the occasion, but would love to get the pairings next time.

There are no photos of the meal–I would have felt very awkward pulling out my camera in that atmosphere (although one of the other diners didn’t seem to mind). The service was excellent, and I appreciated that the tables were spaced far enough apart that we had privacy.

The next morning we woke early and took a shuttle up White Top Mountain to ride the VA Creeper Trail. It’s the former railroad trestle for the VA Creeper train, and runs 18 miles downhill into Damascus (then another 17 into Abingdon). It was one of the most fun things I have ever done! The scenery was gorgeous–the leaves were about at their peak fall colors, and the path takes you through forest, farm land, and along a stream. There are several former depots along the way that sell snacks (one is a cafe), and one is a museum. I cannot recommend the trail enough! Everyone must do it. Or else.

By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain I was starving (no breakfast) so we stopped in at the Whistle Pig Cafe for a snack–sweet potato and black eyed pea soup for me and chili for The Husband. Both were house made and quite good.  We had reservations at our inn for high tea, and that was a hit as well. The proprietress made a butternut squash and pear soup (with a homegrown squash), an assortment of savory sandwiches, a homemade poppy seed scone with homemade lemon curd and clotted cream, plus a pumpkin roll and macadamia cookies. All delicious.

Later that night we popped into the Trail Cafe in Abingdon, and the owners kept giving us soup to try–the green turkey chili was quite good. The owner gave us the recipe and I made some the other day and loved it. We split a shepherd’s pie then went to the movies.

All in all, it was a very fun trip. Maybe mountains don’t have to always be creepy.


Eviscerated Squab, Part 2 August 1, 2010

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 3:13 PM

Today we have a guest reviewer! Miss Pooch has dined on one of Martha Stewart’s new line of dog toys. Here is her review:


1). Act bored on walk around the neighborhood the night before so human will take you to the PARK! in the morning

2). While at park goof off long enough, chewing on sticks and digging holes, that human gets hungry for breakfast. Send thought waves suggesting bagels to human. Bagel store is in the same place as the PET STORE!

3). Stare out window sadly while human gets bagels. Send thought waves requesting the purchase of a doggie bagel.

4). YAY, PET STORE!!! Sniff new Martha Stewart accessories line suspiciously.  Act very enthused when human squeaks bird toy, which tweets rather than squeaks.

5). Wonder why cashier did not offer a treat. They are right there, sitting in the built-in container at the register.

6). Get back in car and attempt to steal lox bagel so doggie bagel will be offered immediately instead of waiting until home. Try to jump out of window of moving car with doggie bagel in mouth, in order to find proper eating location.

7). Go home, eat doggie bagel, take nap.

8). Feign interest in human’s white bean salad at lunch so toy is offered instead.

9). OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!

10.) Find sweet spot in seam, near the tag, and tug at stitches with teeth.

11). Once hole has been opened, pull out tufts of stuffing one by one. Martha’s stuffing lacks seasoning, so spit it to the side. 

12). Find tweeter! YES!

13). Boo. Human takes it away.

14). After chewing for 20 minutes it has not been totally gutted, so pant hard then take nap.

15). Save leftovers for tomorrow.


News You Can’t Use July 30, 2010

Filed under: Other — squeakypeanut @ 1:08 PM

I have started a second blog, with what I hope will be daily snapshots (crappy, natch) of things Miss Pooch and I see as we are out and about. We’ve come across opossums in trash cans, blue herons, and more vomiting homeless women than I care to remember, so who knows what could happen.