Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reverberations From Ground Zero

What if we never got to find out that we were wrong about something we always believed? Fortunately, I live in a place where there is such diversity that I have the chance to test my beliefs every day.
Today was such a day. The Windy City was living up to its name so I decided to walk at my favorite indoor exercise place, Weber Park’s indoor walking track. While changing into my gym shoes, a man and a woman sitting across from me were discussing the proposal to build a Mosque at Ground Zero. “No,” I chimed in. “It’s two blocks from ground Zero, not in it.”
We talked about the Mosque controversy and other issues and how they were affecting people. Did people living near Ground Zero have a right to be frightened? The discussion drifted, as conversations will, to head coverings. The woman commented about the law in France banning women from wearing burqhas. As we began to discuss our misconceptions -or not -about various Muslim head coverings, the woman sitting in a seat across from me said, “Excuse me. I’m a Muslim woman from Pakistan and I’m not wearing any head covering. We don’t all wear them. It depends on the person.”
 I could see where this was going. It was going toward my postponing my exercising yet again. C’est la vie. The discussion about Muslims and Jews and the diversity of practices seemed more interesting than walking around in circles anyway. It’s always a better world when people can talk to each other and reach a new understanding. I could always walk later.
“I feel really comfortable in America,” the Muslim woman said. “Everyone is from somewhere else.”

Alas, she left in a hurry before I could get any recipes from her.
By the time I finished walking, the only people sitting outside of the walking track were Filipinos speaking to each other in Tagalog. Since I don’t speak that language, there was no temptation to join their conversation. That gave me plenty of time to go home and cook Pineapple Chicken, another Peace de Resistance recipe. This recipe serves 4 people and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. It takes an hour to cook. While dinner is cooking, you can read the newspaper, watch the evening news, or listen to the news on NPR and be better informed when you go to vote on Tuesday. During the commercials, about a half hour before the chicken is ready, put up some rice to eat with it. At the next set of commercials, cut up and heat a green vegetable.

                                                Pineapple Chicken


1 chicken cut up
Soy sauce, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
1 can of frozen pineapple juice
1 can water     
1/8 of a cup of brown sugar
1 can pineapple chunks
1 green onion diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the chicken in a flat baking pan skin side up.
Cover chicken lightly with brown sugar. Sprinkle the garlic powder and pour soy sauce over the chicken.
Defrost the pineapple juice until it is soft enough to pour, mix with water and pour over the chicken.
Sprinkle the green onion pieces over the chicken pieces.
Bake in oven until glazed and dark brown (40 – 60 minutes)
Ten minutes before serving, add drained pineapple chunks.

It came out quite tasty. Since there were only two of us to eat it, I even had leftovers for another dinner. For best reheating results, freeze the leftover chicken in a plastic container with all the juices and the pineapple chunks. Reheat the chicken with the juices and pineapple in a pot on a low to medium heat.

And don’t forget to vote.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" Can Really Cook

In her memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen explores the question of what we take from our ethnic roots and how we adapt them as we become Americanized. She begins her journey as her husband leaves her for a guy named Bob that he met on Shortly after that, she is injured in a serious auto accident. Needing to recuperate both mentally and physically, she returns to her parents’ home in the Mennonite community where she grew up. How she copes there after being out in the greater world for most of her adult life and what she comes to appreciate about the strengths of her community is the main theme of her book. Her story, although upsetting for her, was written in a lighthearted way. She was able to laugh at herself while examining her ability to cope making her book enjoyable to read.

What interested me particularly was how many subcultures there are in America and how we are connected in surprising ways. I didn't know prior to reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress that a group of Mennonites lived in the Ukraine for 200 years. I didn't know that one of their leaders originated the idea of the shtetl either. (I trust she was being humorous when she talked about that as a good thing. Her book had many humorous passages.) Aside from that, as a Jew with family originating from the Ukraine, we have something in common. When fleeing the Ukraine, our families managed to take their recipes for sweet and sour cabbage with them to America.

Between reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress and getting into more arguments about who is more pro-Israel than whom in the 9th Illinois Congressional District, I got a taste for sweet and sour cabbage. There are a lot of ways to make it and the recipes I know differ somewhat from Rhoda Janzen’s. There is a recipe for it in Peace de Resistance, also. Of course, I have my family recipe, too, but this time, I’ll give you the one from Peace de Resistance. Sometimes I feel lazy and leave out the cabbage and just make sweet and sour meatballs. This recipe does take a while (prep time about an hour), but the good news is that it freezes really well. Make 3 or 4 times what you’d eat and freeze the rest for nights when you don’t want to cook.

Stuffed Cabbage a la Peace de Resistance (this recipe should serve 4 people)

1 lb ground beef                               Sauce:                           1 tsp cornstarch
2 heaping tbsp cooked rice              1 onion, chopped           2 beef bouillon cubes
1 small onion grated                        2 tbsp. Oil                      2 cups water
1 tbsp water                                     1 small can tomatoes      lemon juice
Salt, pepper                                     1 can tomato sauce         sugar
1 large cabbage                                ½ cup raisins                 1 inch lemon peel

Mix lightly until spongy: chopped meat, rice, 1 small grated onion, 1 tablespoon of water, salt and pepper.
Steam one head of cabbage for 5 minutes in large pot of water, until leaves are soft and pliable.
Make cabbage rolls by placing a spoonful of or more of the meat mixture in center of leaf and fold over.
Place a layer of cabbage rolls in bottom of large pot, sprinkle grated onion over it, and repeat until all cabbage rolls are used up.
Make the sauce by sautéing onion in oil until golden. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, raisins, cornstarch mixed in water, bouillon dissolved in 2 cups of water.
Add the sauce to the cabbage rolls. If sauce does not cover, add enough water to cover.
Cook for an hour in 350-degree oven, covered. Add lemon juice and sugar a little at a time to achieve sweet-and-sour taste Add lemon peel. Cover and cook for one more hour.

Lisa’s shortcut:
If you want to make sweet and sour meatballs instead, forget the cabbage. Instead of adding water to the meat, add ½ cup of breadcrumbs and 1/8 cup catsup. Roll the meat into balls. Make the sauce the same way as above. Put the meatballs into the sauce and cook in a large pot covered. Cook on a medium heat for about an hour. It’s good served over rice or kasha.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feeding The Hungry And Then What Will We Eat?

Yesterday was our turn to help out at the Beth Emet Soup Kitchen in Evanston, Illinois. The leaders of this soup kitchen started it with the idea that the guests must be treated with respect. They usually feed about 100 guests although nobody is ever turned away. The tables are set with tablecloths and flowers and usually volunteer musicians play music.

Working there is always a humbling experience. It's humbling to see people who could easily be our neighbors walk through the line. One person working there recognized a guest who he had gone to school with many years ago. Phil Ochs' song "There But For Fortune" kept going through my mind as I stood at the serving table.

Last night our menu was salad, chicken and vegetable stir fry, rice, and bread. Another helper and I got assigned to making the salad. We filled three huge bowls with salad vegetables. I knew it would be tiring. It's tiring to know that so many people in America need to eat at soup kitchens but what can we expect when the top 2% of the population has more than 25% of the wealth.

To be prepared for getting home late, I made the dinner in a bowl recipe from Peace de Resistance. The owner of the recipe says, "Been marching all day and forgot to defrost anything for dinner.." This is a really good recipe. It can be made in 10 minutes and put in the refrigerator to be eaten later. If you did forget to defrost anything, the ingredients defrost quickly. You can make it when you get home.

                                                        Dinner In A Bowl

8 oz crabmeat ( fake crabmeat made from fish is just as good. You can buy it in a package with fish that comes already cut in cubes to save time)
5 mushrooms
1 zucchini
1 red pepper
1/4 cup raw macaroni
lemon juice to taste
2 tablespons of olive oil
grated parmesan cheese to taste
oregano to taste

1. Boil a cup of water to make the macaroni.
2. While the macaroni is cooking, cut up the zucchini, mushrooms, and red pepper.
3. Saute in half the olive oil.
4. tear lettuce into pieces and cut the tomatoes
5. put all the ingredients in a bowl.
6. pour the second half of the olive oil, lemon juice, grated parmesan cheese, and oregano over the rest of the ingredients for a salad dressing

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dangerous Chocolate Cake In A Dangerous World

Everything is dangerous. We live in a dangerous world and the world has gotten even more dangerous with all the blogs out there spreading bald faced lies about anyone they feel like. (I have to exempt myself as a blogger from this statement. Whenever I blog about an individual, I send him/her the entry first to see if what I said after an interview is accurate. Then I make any necessary corrections before posting it. Not everyone is so scrupulous.) Nevertheless, you should verify the facts especially when you see statements that don’t seem possible. Very often they’re not.

This is an election year. We need to combat even more lies and scurrilous statements. Who has time to cook with all the campaigning that needs to be done? This year, I’m volunteering to campaign for Jan Schakowsky who’s running for re-election for Congresswoman in the 9th District of Illinois. I think that she's done a great job and deserves to be re-elected. On domestic policy, Jan Schakowsky has an excellent record of advocating for people who often lack the clout to advocate for themselves. On Israeli policy, Jan has a 100% rating from AIPAC and has been a staunch friend of Israel, voting yes on every bill supporting Israel that's come up since she's been in Congress and co-sponsoring several. You don't have to take my word for it. Check her record out further by going to her website 

I was going to make The Peace de Resistance recipe for 7-layer dinner, but there isn’t time. The election is too important. This calls for leftovers. I’ve often felt that whoever invented plastic containers and freezers deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Generally, I’m not a baker. When people are invited to my house for a meal and ask what I'd like them to bring, I invariably say, “dessert.” Nevertheless, with the time left over from reheating leftovers, I can make Dangerous Chocolate Cake. This recipe sounded so easy that I decided to try it. It’s a recipe my friend Pamela Stavinoga, author of Moments of Feelings, gave to me. She got it on the internet from k rosen.

Here it is. It’s called 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake. Preparation time is five minutes.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add in the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug but don’t be alarmed.
Allow cooling a little, and tipping out onto a plate if desired.

Voila! The dangerous part, says k rosen, is that now chocolate cake is always less than 10 minutes away.