Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Our Delaware meal turned out to be a perfect fit for a Sunday mid-winter night (even though it's been in the 40s here in Iowa!). Delaware, like much of the mid-Atlantic, South and Midwest, has become a major chicken producer. The results of this industry, however, have been environmentally detrimental in the fragile Chesapeake Bay ecosystem of the Del-Mar-Va peninsula. Interestingly, Delaware has a long relationship with the noble chicken, going much farther back than the current factory model, and the Blue Hen Chicken is the state bird.

A quick google search turned up this recipe for Authentic Delaware Chicken and Slicks. Although our kids generally dislike soup, this meal very much resembled the more successful chicken pie recipe from South Dakota.

You could certainly do this recipe in one day, but I stretched it over two. On Saturday, I made the stock and cooked the chicken. I briefly sauteed roughly cut onions, carrots, celery, garlic and parsnips in a little olive oil.

Then, I put a whole chicken on top of the veggies and covered with water. I added salt, pepper and thyme and simmered for about 2 hours. I removed the chicken and let it cool for a while before removing the meat from the bones. At this point, the stock was nice and rich. If you want to concentrate more flavor, you could put the bones back in the liquid to simmer longer.

On Sunday, I sauteed diced onions, carrots, celery in garlic with more thyme, salt and pepper. I added 8 cups of stock and brought it to a simmer. Meanwhile, I prepared the dough for the "slicks." I followed the recipe exactly here, and was rewarded with a nice soft, stretchy dough to work with.

I used a pizza cutter to cut the squares

I added the slicks to the stock to cook, then the reserved chicken to heat through. This made a nice, warming one-pot meal.

The dish turned out more soup-like than I was expecting, next time I will start with a bit less stock. The flavors, however were excellent! The "dumplings" were more like a hearty noodle. Both girls ate well. Lucy thought the slicks were a little slippery, but ate them happily after setting a couple on the side of the plate to dry out for a minute. Maia really liked them and asked for extra slicks in her dish after she ate the first ones.

After the holidays, we'll take on our next four: Idaho, Connecticut, South Carolina and Arizona.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, we wish you a season full of peace and light!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


We went way north for this meal, and our recent Iowa snow and frigid weather only improved the experience!

This dinner blended several typical Alaskan foods. Of course, we had to have some fish or seafood. Berries and hearty vegetables are also common. Finally, we gave a nod to the state's gold rush history with a loaf of sour dough bread.

We were lucky enough to have some salmon in our freezer. Though our King salmon can't claim Alaskan heritage, as it was caught by my brother in downstate Michigan, it fit the bill. After seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic powder, the two fillets went into a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes (I checked them at 10 and they needed a bit more time).

We did have some real Alaskan product as well: snow crabs. Neither the kids or Marc had ever had these big crab legs. Lucy, after taking her first look at them, declared "I am not eating that." These came already cooked, I only had to heat them up. Most references recommend a quick steam. I didn't have a steamer basket large enough to contain the cluster of legs, so I made my own with some strips of foil over a large pot.

The berries went into a quick cobbler, I found this recipe at one of my most used references for this project.

Blueberry cobbler
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup boiling water

Mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt. Stir in milk, vanilla, butter. Spread batter in buttered 8 X 8 pan. Scatter blueberries over batter. Sprinkle sugar over berries. Pour boiling water over all. Bake at 375 degree oven for 45 min. or unitl brown and done in center. Berries sink to bottom and form juice. Serve hot with light cream; or cold, topped with ice cream."
---Juneau Centennial Cookbook, Jane Stewart, Phyllice F. Bradner, Betty Harris (p. 43)

I only used about 1/3 cup of sugar for the topping and reduced the boiling water by about half. This came together quickly and only took about 30 minutes in the oven. When it was done, I increased the oven temperature for the fish.

Despite Lucy's initial resistance to the crab, it was the first thing she went for at the table. She couldn't wait to crack those suckers open. And, happily, she thoroughly enjoyed what was inside. She said, "they taste just like shrimp, only not quite like shrimp." Well said. Maia dug into her salmon first, one of her favorites. Both adults were happy as well. Despite feeling like a rather decadent meal, it was surprisingly quick and easy. The cobbler was very simple and the fish and crab legs cooked quickly. Easy sides of shredded cabbage and bread rounded out a fun Friday night meal.

Next stop: Delaware

Sunday, December 4, 2011


"Show him the spiced plums, mother. Americans don't have those," said one of the older boys. "Mother uses them to make kolaches," he added.
Leo, in a low voice, tossed off some scornful remark in Bohemian.
I turned to him. "You don't think I know what kolaches are, eh? You're mistaken, young man. I've eaten your mother's kolaches long before that Easter day when you were born."
--Willa Cather, My Antonia--

Not long ago, I got to share one of my favorite Midwestern novels with my book club. My Antonia, by Willa Cather, describes the childhood of Bohemian immigrant Antonia Shimerda on the newly settled Nebraska prairie. Its a beautiful book, simultaneously depicting the vastness of the raw prairie and the intimate, detailed knowledge of the land held by those who lived there.

This meal is a nod to the rich Bohemian (Czech) heritage in Nebraska.

We started the kolaches first thing this morning. I used a dough recipe, found here. Other than using my mixer to bring the dough together, and letting it rise for about an hour and a half, I followed the recipe exactly.

Lucy blends the dough

Filling the kolaches was a team effort.

Ready to bake.

We used three separate fillings: traditional poppyseed, cream cheese and cherry. I bought canned poppyseed filling, though you can make your own. For the cherry, I used the last of some leftover cherry pie filling from Thanksgiving. For the cream cheese filling, I blended 4oz cream cheese, 1/8 cup sugar, 1 small egg yolk, lemon zest and 1/4 tsp vanilla. Other common fillings include peach, apricot and pineapple.

We did have an actual meal, too! I looked at the online menus of several Nebraska Czech restaurants, and they all included Polish sausage. Apparently, Polish sausage, or Kielbasa, is a fairly generic term for sausage in Eastern Europe. Since I spent all morning making kolaches, I didn't feel too bad about such a convenient main dish.

When I googled "traditional Czech side dishes," I found this site, where the first three listed were: boiled potatoes, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes. How convenient! As you might know, we like potatoes around here.

For the grown-ups, our favorite Nebraska brew.

Everyone finished their meal in record time. We had kolaches to eat.

Thumbs up!

Next stop: Alaska!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


While the week after Thanksgiving is usually devoted to austerity, our Colorado meal only continued the holiday binge!

We opted to recognize some of Colorado's major agricultural products: beef, beets and potatoes. I can't say that we support the current system of meat production, in Colorado or anywhere really. It's an unhealthy system that promotes quantity over quality. Cattle are fed subsidized grains that are grown only with high inputs of fossil fuels and synthetic nitrogen. At the grocery store, we pay remarkably low prices for our meat, largely because the real environmental and social costs are externalized--water quality is degraded, soil is eroded, and animal health suffers. There are alternatives, however. We could all probably stand to decrease our meat consumption, to the benefit of our health and the environment. In our home, when we eat meat, we primarily consume products that are local and sustainably produced. Hopefully, by supporting an alternative system, we make it more viable and broadly affordable in the long run.

This meal aims to celebrate Colorado's cowboy past and the early systems of grass-fed meat in the west.

We grilled steaks, two ribeyes for the grown-ups and a New York strip, split between the younger two. On the side, we served roasted yellow beets and purple potatoes--a colorful way to start the month of December! All of these products came from our favorite local farm.

I diced all the vegetables and roasted them separately. The beets went into a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The potatoes were done in a cast iron pan on the stove, then finished in the oven. In both cases, the goal is to get a nice crust on the outside, and maintain a tender interior.

Colorado also boasts several excellent breweries! We especially like New Belgium, but also recommend Left Hand, Tommyknocker and Avery. (note, I did not include Coors!). We've recently been enjoying New Belgium's Ranger.

Everyone was pretty happy with this meal, though the girls avoided the beets. Lucy likes her steak with a little Heinz 57 sauce, but Maia saws into it plain. We had a long conversation about the "right" way to eat your steak. You could choose "rare" (juicy and edible) or the strangely named "well done" (dry like shoe leather). You can see which our household prefers!

Next stop: Nebraska