Stroganoff Deconstructed

My counterpart made beef stroganoff last night, and in the process of planning this dish, he decided to go the Deconstructionist route. This is a bit of a Modernist approach, but don't worry - we're not encasing the sauce in little alginate spheres or anything too weird. And we did stop to consider at what point this approach would cross the line from cool to pretentious and feel we have stayed well on the cool side of that line.

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Buttermilk Biscuits

This has been The Year of the Pie for me as I stretched to improve my skills in this area. It was also The Year of the Great Pie Failure as more and more of my efforts ended in disaster. From my attempts to decorate pies with cutouts on top to my expansion beyond my comfort zone of fruit fillings, I haven't had a pie turn out in months. This includes my plans for Thanksgiving. This month's Shoo Fly Pie was a spectacular fail, and my buttermilk pie was only slightly better. Failure is a necessary part of the learning process however disappointing it may be.

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On Honoring Family Heritage

My great-great-grandmother on my mother's side was named Princess Teske. And she had a story to match the name. She was kicked out of her Amish community when she voluntarily left to marry a nice Catholic boy. It was her blood that sang in my veins the first time I drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania Dutch country on the early morning leg of a college road trip, the mist in the valleys below pink with the rising sun. It felt like home, and I knew I would return. A few years after that, I did move to nearby Maryland.

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Apple Sour Cream Pie

The first pie I mastered was Door County Cherry Pie. This was the pie we had at every holiday while I was growing up and is still my favorite. When I moved to Maryland, those tart little Door County cherries were no longer available to me, and I had to relearn cherry pie with the larger, sweeter bing cherries that are so readily available out here. While I struggled with the unfamiliarity of these cherries and tried to get some of that tart cherry flavor I grew up with into my pies, I eventually began looking to other fruits. And, in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, I found what would become the signature pie of my early days as a wife - Apple Sour Cream pie. I made this pie so many times it became My Pie. And, even though I haven't made it in years, I still think of it that way.

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Reflections of a Carnivore

This is the year the deer have chosen my yard. They have always been present in my 5 acres of mostly wooded property - wandering through and sampling the natural vegetation, spending an afternoon napping in my fern bed, and occasionally interacting with my cat. But this year, a small group of them appears to have taken up a more permanent residence.

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Tiki's on Broadway and the $5 Gyro Experience

Tiki's on Broadway is a pinhole in the wall of Baltimore, a small take-out place that looks the way you would expect it to, only smaller. The Formica counter in the front seats five and provides you with a full-on view of the cigarette rack that carries two brands - Mavericks and Newports. The menu is posted above this in a series of typed pages tacked to the wall. Further in are a couple of rows of small, well-worn booths and a couple of wall-mounted screens showing a horserace video and Keno. You can buy tickets at the front, along with every lottery known to the Baltimore area.

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A New Approach to Ribs

Granted, it's been a quiet year for the blog so far. We continue to spend most of our time on home maintenance and aren't really doing anything interesting in the kitchen. But with the summer cook-out season in full swing and Independence Day right around the corner, I decided to share the secret to perfect ribs. And it's not the grill.

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Shooting Star Pie

It's officially barbecue season, and nothing tops off an afternoon of grilled meat quite like a home made pie. I've been working on my pie decorating skills, using cookie cutters to cut shapes into the top crust of my pies. For Memorial Day, I tried something different.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs Done Right

I am a lover of sloppy joes but have long been a hater of bolognese. This has perplexed my counterpart for most of the 25 years he's known me. After all, they are both ground meat in a tomato-based sauce served over starch. So what's the big deal? To be honest., I'm not entirely sure. But, rather than belabor the whimsical nature of my palate, I'd like to share his favorite take on the classic Italian meat sauce - spaghetti and meatballs.

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Sticky Rice

Folks who have lived in Baltimore know that it's a patchwork with the good and the bad nestled right up against each other in a crazy quilt of urban living that means you spend a good bit of time walking along the edges. Fells Point is such an area. It starts out pretty nice in the touristy area down by the water. But as you move further inland, an almost unconscious wariness sets in. I can never actually feel the transformation taking place in myself - the change in my stride and posture, the set to my jaw, the way my body language changes to encourage others to keep their distance - until I begin to move back into that tourist zone around the harbor and I feel that slight tension leave. This is where Sticky Rice is located.

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Cinco de Mayo 2

I've been holding out on you all, and in no small way. About a year ago I uncovered one of Baltimore's best kept secrets, and I've been keeping it to myself. But the time has come to bring you in on it.

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Mary Cooks: Easy Chicken Taco Meat

Tonight, with my counterpart skim-coating the new ceiling in our bathroom, I was provided with another opportunity to try my luck in the kitchen. Regular readers know that the results of my cooking do indeed appear to depend on luck - sometimes good, sometimes bad, but generally indifferent. But tonight I had one of my rare successes, and this time luck had nothing to do with it.

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Working and Food

It's Day Four of National Blog Posting Month and I have missed another day. I had the best o intentions yesterday, and even had several good ideas - I simply ran out of time.

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Nourishment

May is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. The challenge is to post every single day for the entire month. I signed up to participate, mostly because I want to get better at this, but also because I've been feeling uninspired this year. My posting has become infrequent and somewhat erratic. I'm hoping this challenge will help me rediscover my voice and improve this blog for those of you who continue to read it. But, here it is May 2 already and I'm a day behind. Such is life.

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Lavender Shortbread

Every now and then I take a break from the blog and focus in on my craft. I've spent the last couple of months reading other people's blogs, considering their recipes, examining their photos, and trying out new things myself - both with the camera and in the kitchen. I've been working with my new light box, playing with props and trying to set up scenes for my food. I've also been trying new recipes.

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Vietnamese Food Comes to Harford County

I'm going to start here with a brief history of Vietnamese food in Harford County. And it will be brief, briefer even than the history of Mexican food in Harford County. First, there was nothing - a great dark void in the culinary landscape for the entire 15 years I've lived out here. Then, back in 2012 and completely out of the blue, the Golden Szechuan Inn hired a cook from Vietnam and added a modest selection of pho and noodles to their menu, and Vietnamese food had finally arrived.

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Perfect White Bread

We've been spending a lot of time working on the house this winter, and the only thing exciting happening in the kitchen has been bread. We've continued experimenting with the basic bread recipe we shared back in January with some failures, some successes, and a lot of learning, the most interesting one being the amount of time your bread can rise before it actually collapses back on itself (for us this was a second rise that exceeded 24 hours). One of our more brilliant successes is good old fashioned white bread.

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Blazing Ray's

There is no silence quite like thThere is no silence quite like that of a power outage. The white noise and blue glow of our appliances wink out, so easily ignored until they are gone, and a strange almost foreign stillness seeps through the neighborhood. There is a minute, maybe two, when the only sounds to hear are the air outside and our own breath as we heave a collective sigh and prepare for the continuing darkness. Then, the gentle whir of a backup generator here and there restores some semblance of normalcy as the constant background of electricity resumes, however muted.at of a power outage. The white noise and blue glow of our appliances wink out, so easily ignored until they are gone, and a strange almost foreign stillness seeps through the neighborhood. There is a minute, maybe two, when the only sounds to hear are the air outside and our own breath as we heave a collective sigh and prepare for the continuing darkness. Then, the gentle whir of a backup generator here and there restores some semblance of normalcy as the constant background of electricity resumes, however muted.

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Candlemas

Candlemas is quiet midwinter day. Boisterous Beltane is about fertility and new life. Halloween by contrast is about death and the departed. Candlemas is about everything in between: family, hearth, home. It is Brigid's Day. Before she became a saint in the Catholic pantheon, Brigid was the goddess of domestic arts. In her time, my ancestors birthed the first of the new lambs around this time of the year and started preparing to break ground for the year's planting. 

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